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Disasters and Accidents

Power, Phone Outages Add To Confusion In Fire-Threatened Towns

Quickly moving wildfires burning hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon and Washington have pushed those states to the top of the national priority list for firefighting resources.

Officials say 127 houses and other structures in the Northwest have been consumed by wildfires –- though there are reports of many more destroyed. Central Washington has seen some of the worst of the damage.

A massive cluster of fires known as the Carlton Complex has put a half-dozen towns in central Washington on alert. The community of Malott was the latest to get a town-wide evacuation notice. Residents of Pateros have been trickling back in to see if their homes are still standing.

But getting information about the fires has been difficult. Shan Miller put together a makeshift aid shelter at the rec center in Brewster, Washington.

“The communication is terrible," Miller said. "Cell services are out, phone lines are down. People's phone chargers burned up in their homes. I mean, so we've got people that are driving back and forth. And we have no idea when all that is going to change.”

The local utility district said several thousand residents don’t have electricity. The power outage even extends to the command post for the fire. It’s unclear when utility crews will be able to get into the burned area to make repairs.