With the hottest and driest time of the year upon us, fires are continuing to rage in the Pacific Northwest, threatening homes and forcing evacuations in Oregon and Eastern Washington along with British Columbia, Canada.
With the hottest and driest time of the year upon us, fires are continuing to rage in the Pacific Northwest, threatening homes and forcing evacuations in Oregon and Eastern Washington and British Columbia.
The fires are consuming hundreds of thousands of acres, trapping hikers and causing air quality to plummet throughout the region as the wind alternately blows from the north, east and south.
A wildfire in Central Washington has crossed the border into Canada. The Diamond Creek fire, near the Canadian border in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest, has burned more than more than 68,000 acres and is affecting air quality in the Methow Valley. Crystal Mountain Resort closed Monday due to smoke from the Norse Peak fire, burning about 125 miles southeast of Seattle.
The Jolly Mountain fire, near Cle Elum, is smaller but is posing a bigger threat to public safety, according to fire officials. More than 1,000 people have been evacuated due to the blaze which is threatening more than 380 homes and has prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency.
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In Oregon, the Eagle Creek fire had consumed more than 3,000 acres of steep, dry land by Sunday, and about 140 hikers were stranded Saturday night on a popular hiking trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. As those hikers were being safely reunited Sunday with family, residents of about 130 homes in Cascade Locks were under evacuation orders because of the smoke and flames.
Oregon State Police are investigating the cause of the fire, which they say was started on Saturday by humans. Further details were not immediately available, but fire officials asked people to be aware of burn bans, to use alternate sources of fuel for cooking and said tiny sparks can cause huge fires in dry, hot conditions.
In all, 25 active fires in Oregon have burned more than 419,000 acres. The largest include the Chetco Bar fire in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in which more than 143,000 acres are involved.
Mike Stearly, a public-information officer for Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, said Saturday the Chetco Bar fire was being fought by 1,700 people and had displaced 5,000 residents. Another group of Josephine County residents were being told to prepare to leave their homes if necessary.
The High Cascades Complex fires, which includes six separate fires in areas like Crater Lake National Forest, has 28,326 acres involved, according to fire information officer Terry Solomon. The fire is 33 percent contained, but the high volume of smoke is complicating firefighting efforts because aircraft cannot be used, she said. Approximating fire growth for mapping purposes has been done recently the “old-fashioned way,” Solomon said, with people standing at different high points and using triangulation techniques.
“The smoke is a problem,” Solomon said.
Stearly said the most active fires this weekend in Washington — the Jolly Mountain and Eagle Creek fires — grew because they were whipped up by wind due to their higher elevation, which kept them above the dampening effects of a “smoke inversion.”
In British Columbia, 126 ongoing fires have destroyed more than 1.2 million acres of land, forced evacuations and threatened hundreds of homes, farms and businesses. So far, the fire season is the second worst in history and is not expected to abate until the weather changes, according to Kevin Skrepnek, a spokesman for the B.C. Wildfire Service.