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BYU-Idaho therapist helps fire victims as hundreds of homes evacuated

SPOKANE, Wash. - An American Red Cross of Greater Idaho volunteer from Rexburg deployed to Washington on Monday to provide counseling services to people affected by a wildfire that has burned about 380 square miles -- the largest in Evergreen State history.

Roy Marlow is a licensed therapist with Brigham Young University-Idaho and Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer. Mental health personnel with the Red Cross are licensed and volunteer to be trained in specialized disaster counseling skills then then travel to disasters to help victims and relief workers deal with stress and trauma.

The Carlton Complex wildfire is the largest in state history. As of Tuesday, 16 percent of the fire burning in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest was contained. About 300 to 500 homes in the town of Pateros have been evacuated.

The fire was started by lightning July 14.

Firefighters and local authorities are heartened by weather forecasts that call for cooler temperatures and higher humidity.

They just hope that the "lightning watch" also forecast this week doesn't ignite new fires.

"We don't need any more lightning," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Monday night.

Fire crews quickly attacked a new fire east of Tonasket on Monday, Rogers said. A half-dozen homes were briefly evacuated, but the fire burned past them with no destruction.

The Carlton Complex is larger than the Yacolt Burn, which consumed 238,920 acres in southwestern Washington in 1902 and was the largest recorded forest fire in state history, according to HistoryLink.org, an online resource of Washington state history. The Yacolt Burn killed 38 people.

Rogers has estimated that 150 homes have been destroyed already, but he suspected that number could rise. The fire is being blamed for one death.

Rob Koczewski, 67, died of an apparent heart attack Saturday while he and his wife were hauling water and digging fire lines near their home. Koczewski was a retired Washington State Patrol trooper and U.S. Marine, Rogers said.

Firefighters have been hampered by the loss of electricity in the area due to downed power lines and poles, which hurt communications.   

There are more than 1,600 firefighters battling the flames, heped by more than 100 fire engines, helicopters dropping buckets of water and planes spreading flame retardant, authorities said.


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