Editor’s note: This is a live account of wildfire updates from Wednesday, Sept. 9, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated.
Fierce winds and dry, hot weather have helped rapidly spread dozens of wildfires throughout Washington state since Monday, filling the Puget Sound region with smoke, forcing hundreds of families to flee their homes and knocking out power in thousands of others.
Gov. Jay Inslee said in a Tuesday news conference that about 330,000 acres had burned in the previous 24 hours, more than double the acreage burned all of last year in Washington. Crews were still working on nine “significant” fires in the state as of Tuesday afternoon.
In California, winds have stoked an unprecedented number of fires, forcing rescues and evacuations.
Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll post updates on the wildfires and their effects on the Seattle area, Washington state and the West Coast. Updates from Tuesday can be found here.
New brush fire breaks out in Bonney Lake
Police warned residents to avoid certain areas in Bonney Lake after another brush fire burst out Wednesday night.
The blaze began in the 19200 block of Old Buckley Highway East behind a Target store, the Bonney Lake Police Department tweeted around 9:30 p.m. Homes within a three-block radius and all businesses on both sides of 192nd Avenue East were evacuated.
Firefighters contained the fire within about 30 minutes.
Roads were blocked off on 192nd Avenue from Old Buckley Highway to Highway 410, and on Old Buckley Highway from Angeline Road East to Kelly Lake Road. Police said roads would remain closed until crews cleared the scene.
Fire east of Enumclaw burns 150 acres
A fire has burned 150 acres of thick timber 6 miles east of Enumclaw, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
Highway 410 remains closed in both directions near Southeast Mud Mountain Road because of the fire and trees that fell over the road, the Washington State Department of Transportation said.
No homes or buildings are in the area that would be threatened by the fire.
Washington lands commissioner says wildfires have burned 587,000 acres in Washington
OLYMPIA — Roughly 587,000 acres have burned in Washington’s wildfires as of Wednesday morning, according to state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.
This year’s blazes amount to roughly half the size of 2015’s record-setting fire season, which burned more than 1 million acres — but most of the acres scorched this year have come in just the past 48 hours.
Franz, who heads the Department of Natural Resources, which is responsible for the state’s wildfire-fighting teams, said fire danger will remain high as long as hot, dry and wind conditions hold.
“We will be in a severe fire danger situation for as long as there's wind," she said. High winds earlier in the week kept the state’s firefighting helicopters grounded and unable to respond.
In remarks Wednesday afternoon after he toured fire damage in Pierce County, Gov. Jay Inslee said more than 480,000 acres across the state had burned in just the past couple days.
Man arrested, accused of setting fire in Puyallup
A Puyallup man was arrested Wednesday afternoon after allegedly setting a fire in the median of Highway 167 in north Puyallup, according to the Washington State Patrol.
The 36-year-old man was taken into custody after officers say they observed him setting the fire on Highway 167 and North Meridian Avenue. The state patrol worked with the Fife and Puyallup police departments to make the arrest.
The northbound ramp from North Meridian Avenue was closed because of the brush fire.
Graham fire destroys several homes and buildings
A fire that began Monday night in Graham has destroyed five homes and 10 buildings. The fire started when a tree fell on power lines, according to Graham Fire & Rescue.
1-year-old from Renton killed, parents burned while fleeing Cold Springs Fire
A 1-year-old boy died and his parents were severely burned while fleeing the Cold Springs Fire in Okanogan County.
Their abandoned and wrecked car was found Tuesday afternoon and had been burnt, according to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. On Wednesday morning, search-and-rescue crews found the family along the riverbank of the Columbia River; the man, 31, and woman, 26, had third-degree burns and their son was dead. The family is from Renton, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The man and woman were taken to Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster and then flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The man arrived at the hospital's emergency department around 1:30 p.m., and the woman arrived around 2:15 p.m. They were in critical condition at the hospital Wednesday evening, according to spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
The Sheriff’s Office did not provide details on the boy’s cause of death.
The Cold Springs Fire, south of Omak, has burned 163,000 acres and its fire behavior remains extreme.
Massive smoke clouds, thick air darken Western U.S. skies
SAN FRANCISCO — People from San Francisco to Seattle woke Wednesday to hazy clouds of smoke lingering in the air, darkening the sky to an eerie orange glow that kept street lights illuminated into midday, all thanks to dozens of wildfires throughout the West.
“It’s after 9 a.m. and there’s still no sign of the sun,” the California Highway Patrol’s Golden Gate division tweeted, urging drivers to turn on their headlights and slow down.
Social media was filled with photos of the unusual sky and many people complained their cellphone cameras weren’t accurately capturing the golden hues.
Despite the foreboding skies, there was little scent of smoke and the air quality index did not reach unhealthy levels. That’s because fog drifting from the Pacific Ocean was sandwiched between the smoke and surface. Meanwhile, smoke particles above the marine layer were only allowing yellow-orange-red light to reach the surface, said Ralph Borrmann, a spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Read the full story here.
The status of major wildfires in Washington state
Pearl Hill: The fire, east of Bridgeport in Okanogan County, has grown to 174,000 acres and was about 10% contained as of Wednesday morning. The southern portion is coming under control, but the northern portion remains very active in the area of Bridgeport, northeast of Mansfield and on steep areas along the Columbia River, according to Wayne Patterson, fire information officer with the Northwest Incident Management Team.
Cold Springs: The fire, south of Omak, has burned 163,000 acres and is uncontained, and its fire behavior remains extreme. Multiple structures have been lost, and 110 residences and 75 other structures are threatened. Highway 155 is closed from Omak to Nespelem, and Highway 97 remains closed between Omak and Brewster. About 200 firefighters are working on this fire. No injuries have been reported.
Customs Road: The fire west of Curlew, Okanogan County, is 600 acres and is uncontained.
Apple Acres: The fire northeast of Chelan in Chelan County has grown to about 6,300 acres and is 36% contained as of Wednesday afternoon. It remains very active, with spot fires crossing fire lines, Patterson said. The fire is burning grass, brush and timber, and threatening structures.
Inchelium Complex: The three fires that make up the complex -- the Inchelium Highway fire, Fry fire and Kewa Field fire -- are burning north of Inchelium in Ferry County on the Colville Indian Reservation, have grown to 8,000 acres and threatening structures. It is about 20% contained.
Manning Road: The fire north of Colfax in Whitman County is uncontained. It has burned 2,000 acres of grass, brush and timber.
Beverly Burke: The fire, southeast of Vantage in Kittitas County, has burned 920 acres and is 30% contained.
Babb: The fire northwest of Rosalia in Whitman County has grown to more than 8,000 acres of grass and brush. It is uncontained.
Whitney: The fire is burning northwest of Davenport and has grown to about 130,000 acres of grass and brush and is uncontained.
Evans Canyon: The fire is about 8 miles northwest of Naches and began on Aug. 31. It is 75,817 aces and 80% contained.
Fire destroys houses in Sumner
In Sumner, two houses were lost in the 8000 block of 173rd Avenue East, according to Sgt. Darren Moss with the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.
The fire has jumped Highway 410 and crews are working to contain it west of Myers Road. The highway remains closed.
Oregon governor: Fires will cause a 'great deal of loss'
Oregon officials expect a “great deal of loss, both in structures and in human lives” because of wildfires raging across the state, Gov. Kate Brown said in a news conference Wednesday.
“Over the last 24 hours, Oregon has experienced unprecedented fire, with significant and devastating consequences across the entire state,” Brown said.
Crews are fighting 35 wildfires, along with multiple smaller fires, totaling 500 square miles.
Five towns have been destroyed, and mass evacuations are being carried out. In some cases, people have been pulled to safety from rivers, Brown said.
Read more about the devastating wildfires in Oregon here.
Masks help slow the spread of COVID-19, but will they help with smoky air?
Washington residents are already required to wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but could masks help with the smoky air?
Short answer: Probably not.
While N95 or N100 masks are the most effective for defense from air pollution, health officials caution that those should be reserved for people in the health-care field and others who need them for work to protect against COVID-19.
If you already have a N95 or N100 mask, know that it offers only limited protection from pollution and smoke, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. Those masks filter out fine particles but not hazardous gases in the smoke.
They also won’t work on people with beards, since they don’t seal well enough for protection against smoke, according to the Washington Department of Health. They also shouldn’t be used on infants or small children.
Cloth masks or other face coverings should only be used as a last resort, the Clean Air Agency said.
Air quality remains unhealthy for sensitive groups
Air quality in the Puget Sound region is unhealthy for sensitive groups because of wildfire smoke levels, officials said Wednesday morning.
Air-quality levels of moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups are expected to persist through the weekend, according to a joint statement from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish county health departments.
Sensitive groups include infants, children, people older than 65, pregnant women, people with heart or lung diseases, respiratory infections, diabetes and those with COVID-19. Anyone who is in a sensitive group should stay home when possible and limit outdoor activities.
The agencies recommend closing windows and using an air conditioner in recirculation mode, if possible. If inside becomes unbearably hot, it’s better to open windows for a short period than to have the temperatures rise even more.
The air quality forecast is available on the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s website.
Venturing outside on a bad air-quality day? Here’s how to do it safely
In 2018, we spoke with forecaster Erik Saganic at the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) to find out how you can enjoy the great outdoors when the air quality isn’t so great. Here are his tips for going outside on poor air-quality days.
Monitor air quality
First things first: Head on over to the PSCAA website to see if your county is affected, and look for the giant red or green thumbs up or thumbs down to see what kind of activity is or isn’t recommended based on the air quality. The accessible graphic includes different recommendations for “Healthy Adults” and “Sensitive Groups.”
If your county is experiencing particularly bad air quality, keep an eye on the Current Air Quality Network Map, updated every hour, to plan your run or other outdoor activity for when air quality will be improved.
Walk, don't run
When the air quality is poor, keep your activity to levels that don’t increase your rate of breathing too much. Think yoga, walking and tai chi.
Read the full story here.
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