TWISP, Wash. -- The Carlton Complex fire has consumed more than 250,000 acres and is 52 percent contained. Almost 4,000 firefighters and 25 aircraft are making a difference. But through it all, homeowners say they have not received a single emergency alert, prompting some to ask why not?
Michael Marchiney has lived in the Carlton area for 20 years. The Carlton Complex fire destroyed his girlfriend’s home and his normal way of getting emergency updates.
“It felt like we weren’t getting information,” said Marchiney. “We were all having to give each other information.”
”I’ve never seen this absence of information,” said Lucy Reed.
Reed’s Carlton home was surrounded by flames, yet she never got a warning to get out.
”As far as I could see from the north as far to the south was like a vermillion sunset all night - flames everywhere,” said Reed.
That’s because the Emergency Alert System (EAS), according to multiple people, never activated in Okanogan County, the one that alerts people through TV, radio and through cell phones of impending danger.
Broadcasters and government leaders in Spokane on Thursday asked why.
“At this time we’re really trying to still evaluating the lessons learned and trying to understand why it wasn’t utilized,” said Darrell Ruby with Spokane Emergency Management.
Residents in Twisp say with the lack of power or cell phone service, it’s impossible to get those needed alerts.
“It was tough because it was so fast,” said Marchiney.
That’s why people here are not quick to blame the emergency alert process.
“It seems like it should be possible to coordinate communications at some level,” said Reed.
But they say the disaster should prompt leaders to make it better in case the worst happens again.
The Washington State Emergency Management division helps coordinate EAS information. They said they never got a call from local authorities, likely because the fire moved too fast and they didn’t have time to active the process.
KING 5's Liza Javier contributed to this report.