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Washington sheriff: 300 homes burned in massive wildfire, twice as many as previous estimate

Washington National Guard Blackhawk helicopters are lined up near other aircraft at the airport in Omak, Wash. on Thursday, July 24, 2014. The Washington National Guard is helping fight wildfires in Washington state with four Blackhawks and two Chinook helicopters. (AP Photo)

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Washington National Guard Blackhawk helicopters are lined up near other aircraft at the airport in Omak, Wash. on Thursday, July 24, 2014. The Washington National Guard is helping fight wildfires in Washington state with four Blackhawks and two Chinook helicopters. (AP Photo)

TWISP, Wash. - About 300 homes — twice as many as previously estimated — have burned in the largest recorded wildfire in Washington state history, a county sheriff said Friday.

Officials had placed the number of homes destroyed at 150 in north-central Washington's Carlton fire complex. But Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said he knew that figure would rise because crews hadn't been able to reach some of the burned areas.

The updated estimate came after Rogers and his deputies drove 750 miles of roadway through the blackened area, surveying the devastation.

"It's every road. Every road lost something," Rogers said. "It looks like a moonscape; there's nothing left. There's hundreds of dead livestock. It's horrifying."

At nearly 400 square miles, the lightning-caused Carlton Complex has eclipsed the 1902 Yacolt Burn, which killed 38 people and consumed about 373 square miles, or 238,920 acres, in southwest Washington. The Carlton Complex has been blamed for the death of a man who appeared to suffer a heart attack while trying to protect his property.

Fire crews have reported good progress in the last few days, with cooler weather and rain helping in getting the fire a little more than half contained. But officials were concerned that hotter, drier weather and wind gusts in the forecast could increase fire activity.

The fire has been burning in the scenic Methow Valley, a popular area for hiking and fishing about 180 miles northeast of Seattle. The fire destroyed 30 homes in the town of Pateros, one of the worst-hit areas.

Power was finally restored to parts of the valley, including Twisp and Winthrop, on Friday, eight days after the fire burned two key utility lines. But many people in outlying areas remained without electricity, Rogers said.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday extended a burn ban for dry eastern Washington for one more week. The ban had been set to end Friday.

"While fire crews have made significant progress over the past week in bringing the fires under control, weather conditions are still a concern and we need to continue erring on the side of safety," Inslee said. "Resources are still stretched thin and we want everything we have focused on containing the remaining fires and helping impacted families."

He also said that the state would waive permit requirements for anyone in the affected areas who wants to use extra-large generators because they remain without power.

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