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Firefighters Aided By Calm Weather Make 'Great Progress' On Washington Fires

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
The smoky Okanogan Complex fire camp has taken over the county fairgrounds.

The fight against the huge wildfires in north central Washington has turned a corner. Fire bosses have even started using words like “optimistic” and “great progress.”

Three days in a row of light to calm winds and a weather inversion threw a smoky blanket of sorts on what is now the biggest wildfire in Washington state history. The Okanogan Complex of fires flanked the small towns of Omak, Okanogan and Riverside on two sides, but there are no flames visible from the valley floor anymore.

The flip side of the calm weather is that the thick smoke sticks around. That grounded most air support in Okanogan County Monday and forced drivers to turn on their headlights in daytime to be seen better.

It’s a similar story on the Chelan Complex. The threat to the resort community of Chelan has subsided and fire growth is mostly in remote forest drainages now.

In Okanogan and Chelan counties, many evacuation orders have been dialed back to "Level 1," which means to be aware of conditions and prepared.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.