Editor’s note: This is a live account of wildfire updates from Friday, Sept. 11, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated.
Dozens of wildfires continue to rage in the forests, grasslands and foothills of the Pacific Northwest and down the West Coast, blackening more than a million acres in Washington and Oregon while forcing evacuations, knocking out power and fouling the air with smoke and soot.
The air quality is expected to worsen, with meteorologists warning of a “super-massive” smoke plume billowing into the region over the weekend. The state Department of Ecology forecasts unhealthful conditions for everyone Friday — here’s how to reduce your exposure.
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday are here.
Four strike teams expected to assist with Sumner Grade fire over the weekend
Firefighters had contained about 30% of the Sumner Grade fire near Bonney Lake as of Friday evening, according to East Pierce Fire & Rescue.
The fire has burned about 800 acres, the fire department said on Twitter. On Saturday, the department will be assisted by four strike teams, including two from the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan and two from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
Highway 410 between Sumner and Bonney Lake remains closed until at least Monday, the tweet said.
State confirms Cold Springs fire is about 40% contained
The Cold Springs fire has spread about 187,689 acres as of Friday evening and has climbed to about 40% containment, according to the state wildfire officials.
About 290 firefighters and aircraft operators have worked together to "make good progress," according to a tweet from the Washington state Department of Natural Resources. Their primary goal continues to be containing lines along the perimeter of the blaze, the tweet said.
Woodland Park Zoo closed Saturday because of unhealthy air quality
The Woodland Park Zoo will be closed Saturday because of Seattle’s unhealthy air quality that’s forecast to persist through the weekend.
Staff will be on site and will take additional precautions for geriatric and vulnerable animals, the zoo said in a news release. They will also monitor other animals for signs of respiratory distress.
Anyone who bought tickets for Saturday will be notified directly about a refund. The zoo is scheduled to reopen Sunday.
Drone video shows damage from Graham fire
A fire that began Monday night in Graham has been contained. It destroyed five homes and 10 buildings, and started when a tree fell on power lines, according to Graham Fire & Rescue.
Air quality in Seattle reaches hazardous level
The state Department of Ecology has classified the air in Seattle as "hazardous," the most severe rating.
A "hazardous" rating means people with heart and lung disease should consider leaving the area. Everyone should stay indoors.
Anything above the index level of 300 is considered hazardous by Ecology. By Friday afternoon, the air quality in downtown Seattle was 312. The air quality was slightly worse in Bellevue, at 325.
Ecology displays ratings throughout Washington and Oregon on its website, which was loading slowly Friday afternoon. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also tracks air quality. See the map here.
Inslee: Fires in past five days are most in state history, other than 2015
OLYMPIA – Wildfires have torched at least 626,982 acres as of Friday morning, according to Gov. Jay Inslee.
“And these are just the active fires, not the ones that have already been contained and where recovery continues,” Inslee said in a news conference.
The fires in just the past five days are the most in state history, Inslee said, other than 2015’s historic fire season.
As of Friday, there are 14 large active fires in the state, he said.
Mariners outfielder Braden Bishop to wear Dick’s cleats to support Washington firefighters
Following the buzz on social media and television that Dee Strange-Gordon received when he recently wore a pair of custom designed white cleats with bright red and yellow logo of In-N-Out Burger on them, the preeminent local burger chain in the area — Dicks’ Drive-in — wasn’t about to be left out in this party.
Dick’s Drive-In put out a “cleat challenge” to the Mariners on Twitter on Thursday, with a picture of the franchise’s bright orange logo imposed on to a pair of navy and white cleats. The tweet read:
@Mariners We don’t want to name names, but it came to our attention that a player wore a rival burger stands logo – we wanted to reach out with a compromise – some local cleats and $1,000 gift certificate pledge to the first M’s player that reps the #HometownBurger – any takers?!
Not surprisingly Mariners’ outfielder Braden Bishop, who went to the University of Washington and had more than his fair share of Dick’s burgers in his college days, accepted the challenge with a certain condition — that the $1000 gift certificate be used to feed the hard-working Washington firefighters currently battling the many wildfires in the state.
Bishop, from his account @BradenBishop7 quote-tweeted his answer to Dick’s, which read:
“I will wear them! But on one condition, the $1000 goes to feeding the firefighters fighting fires around the state. Do we have a deal?”
Read the full story here.
Dozens missing in aftermath of Oregon wildfires
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, in a Friday news briefing, said that dozens of people remain missing in the aftermath of fires this week that have burned more than 1 million acres of land. The concerns for loss of life is greatest in Jackson, Lane and Marion counties, which were all hard hit by fast-moving fires whipped up earlier this week by strong winds, according to Brown, who cited “early reports” from Oregon State Police.
Brown said that she would offer updates when further information was available about the missing.
This grim news came as fire growth slowed amid cooler temperatures and greatly reduced winds. This aided fire crews in efforts to build containment lines even as it blanketed much of the state in a thick layer of smoke.
Oregon governor clarifies statement on evacuation numbers
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday clarified the status of evacuations in the state.
A statement released yesterday by the state Office of Emergency Management said: “An estimated 500,000 Oregonians have been evacuated and the numbers continue to grow.”
That statistic generated headlines across the country but was incorrect.
Brown said more than 40,000 Oregonians have been evacuated. The 500,000 figure, Brown said, included those in Level 2 and Level 1 zones, where they should be prepared to evacuate due to increased fire risks. But residents under Level 1 and 2 are not under instructions to leave.
How are the wildfires affecting you?
Have you been affected by the wildfires in Washington state? Has the resulting smoke had an impact on your health? Are you on the front lines fighting the fires? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.
Crystal Mountain Resort suspends operations for rest of season
Crystal Mountain Resort has closed for the remainder of the season because of wildfires burning near Highway 410.
Crystal Mountain, which is normally open for summer activities through the end of September, has suspended all operations, the resort announced Friday. Highway 410, the main roadway to Crystal Mountain from Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia, closed after a fire scorched a portion east of Enumclaw.
The resort was scheduled to operate through Sept. 27.
City and county will open new emergency homeless shelter in response to air quality concerns
Seattle and King County will open a new emergency homeless shelter, for up to 77 people, in SoDo. Officials said that all week they've been weighing the danger of the air versus the danger posed by bringing more people together in an indoor setting during the coronavirus pandemic.
The shelter will open this afternoon.
"The simultaneous public health threats that are caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfire smoke are cause for all of us to make difficult decisions to minimize harm to our most vulnerable communities," Mayor Jenny Durkan said.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said the shelter was a large building, equipped with appropriate air filtration, and each resident would have their own space, separated by cloth dividers.
WSU Pullman suspends operations due to poor air quality
Washington State University has suspended operations at its main campus in Pullman as of noon Friday, citing deteriorating air quality from wildfire smoke in the area.
All academic and other activities are canceled, whether they're in person or online.
Everyone is advised to leave campus except "essential personnel" who are required to be there, the university wrote in an alert on its website.
Students who are experiencing respiratory distress can call Cougar Health Services at 509-335-3575, according to the alert, which advised the campus community to stay inside and keep their indoor air clean.
As of noon Friday, the air quality in Pullman was classified as "Moderate" by the Washington state Department of Ecology, meaning people with health conditions should limit time outdoors. It is expected to worsen there on Saturday.
The Babb-Malden and Manning fires, northwest of Pullman, had burned nearly 18,000 acres by Friday morning. Strong winds have carried smoke from dozens of fires around the state, worsening air quality in many places, including those not near active fires.
Seattle closes beaches, parks, play fields due to smoke
Mayor Jenny Durkan said at a news conference Friday that the city will close all beaches, parks, boat ramps and play fields through Sunday because of wildfire smoke inundating the region.
Durkan said the city would not formally enforce the closures or issue citations.
"We’re going to really focus our attention on educating people and urging them to stay inside," she said.
Seattle air quality reaches "very unhealthy" levels
The air quality readings in most of the Puget Sound region have reached "very unhealthy" levels, meaning that anyone could experience serious health effects if they go outside.
Activities outside should be avoided, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology.
The air quality is worse along the Washington coast and in Southwest Washington, where it has reached "hazardous" levels.
Air quality expected to worsen to very unhealthy levels
The air quality in Western Washington, already at unhealthy levels in most of the region, is expected to worsen this afternoon as smoke from Oregon wildfires continues to flow here.
The air quality could reach very unhealthy conditions, according to the National Weather Service, which means health risks are elevated for everyone. The conditions will be worst along the Interstate 5 corridor.
The smoky air will persist into the weekend, the weather service said.
The weather on Friday should actually improve for firefighting purposes, in almost all ways, said Dana Felton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. Temperatures will be as much as 20 degrees cooler and the humidity higher, and the winds will be coming primarily from the west rather than the east.
But the good news is tempered by a sort of Catch-22 with fires that have already burned. Winds coming from the southwest are sweeping the huge plume of smoke, originally from fires burning in Oregon, into Western Washington.
Smoke can make you more susceptible to COVID-19, health officials say
Breathing the smoke inundating the air this week can make you more susceptible to contracting a respiratory infection, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to the Washington state Department of Health (DOH).
Smoke is bad for the lungs under normal circumstances, but health officials are warning people to be extra cautious because of the pandemic.
Smoke can also worsen symptoms for people who already have COVID-19, air-quality specialist Kaitlyn Kelly of the DOH wrote in a Thursday evening post on the Washington Smoke Blog, a joint effort of state, county and federal agencies, and Indian tribes.
"There were already limited ways to protect ourselves from wildfire smoke, and COVID-19 makes it even more challenging," Kelly wrote.
The more severe symptoms associated with wildfire smoke — including wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath — are some of the same symptoms commonly seen with COVID-19, Kelly wrote.
The DOH recommends these steps to protect your health:
- Stay informed about current and forecasted air quality.
- Reduce outdoor physical activity.
- Stay indoors when it’s smoky and keep indoor air clean.
- Close your windows and doors to reduce intake of smoke. However, ventilation is good for helping prevent COVID-19, so when air quality is good, open them to get fresh air and reduce potential viral load.
- Improve filtration of indoor air in your home and create a clean-air room where you spend most of your time. Making your own box-fan filter can be a less expensive option to filter air and improve indoor air quality in a single room. Filtering indoor air is an effective way to reduce fine particles from wildfire smoke. It can also provide some protection from COVID-19, but this alone is not enough to protect you from COVID-19.
- Avoid avoiding burning candles or incense, smoking inside, frying or broiling, or vacuuming (unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter).
- Wear your cloth face covering to slow the spread of COVID-19. While cloth face coverings may help a small amount with smoke, they won’t filter out the fine particles or hazardous gasses. N95 respirators, if fitted and worn properly, can reduce exposure to wildfire smoke, but as the supply remains limited, these need to be reserved for workers that are required to wear them for their job.
'He was alone, terrified and ran for his life'
GRIDLEY, Calif. — The terrible toll of California’s wildfires became more evident as a mother confirmed her 16-year-old son was among those killed when an inferno tore through several hamlets in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada this week.
Jessica Williams, who earlier pleaded for her missing son Josiah to call her, told CBS13 Sacramento that DNA confirmed the teen’s death.
“He was alone, terrified and ran for his life … my son was a good, smart, caring young boy that died alone and it kills me thinking about what he was going through,” the TV station reported Friday.
It was not immediately clear if the teen was counted among the 10 wildfire deaths or 16 missing persons reported so far by local authorities.
The North Complex fire near the small city of Oroville that exploded in wind-driven flames earlier in the week was advancing more slowly Friday after the winds eased and smoke from the blaze shaded the area and lowered the temperature, allowing firefighters to make progress, authorities said.
Half a million in Oregon are under evacuation warning or order
Editor's note: An earlier version of this update included incorrect information about how many people had been evacuated in Oregon due to wildfire.
Record-breaking wildfires have torn through Oregon at an alarming pace this week.
More than 30 fast-moving wildfires across the state have now killed at least four people and burned more than 900,000 acres in Oregon, nearly doubling the annual average of acres burned in just three days, according to the state’s Office of Emergency Management.
About 500,000 residents — over 10 percent of the state’s population — under an evacuation warning or order as of Thursday.
The number of evacuees spiked on Thursday when many residents left communities in Clackamas County, the state’s third-most populous county, which borders Portland, said Paula Fasano Negele, a spokeswoman for the OEM.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Wildfires tear through homes as Seattle area braces for ‘super-massive’ smoke plume: Javier Pascacio Pacheco and his aunt Maria Carranza Perez lost nearly everything when the Pearl Hill fire barreled into Bridgeport, Douglas County. They're among fire victims taking stock, with homes in ashes and injured animals roaming. Here's a map showing the status of Washington's major blazes.
Air quality is expected to worsen significantly today after still-raging wildfires destroyed homes and blackened more than a million acres in Washington and Oregon. Here's how to deal with the unhealthful air.
How to prepare for wildfires: The CDC has outlined several steps to take now.
In Oregon, walls of flame moved with tremendous speed, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing residents to flee down roads with flames on both sides. More than 80,000 people are under evacuation notice.
In California, crews are searching for 16 people in what is already the state's deadliest blaze of the year, after the North Complex fire tore through Sierra Nevada foothills. Smoke was so thick that fire helicopters couldn't fly yesterday.
Beware of misinformation. Officials are debunking a barrage of competing claims that activists on the far left and far right are setting fires.
Do you have questions about wildfires?
Ask your question in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here.
Most Read Local Stories
- The humbling coronavirus has instead touched off a pandemic of preening
- Coronavirus daily news updates, March 3: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- Washington state teachers, child care workers can now get COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Inslee says
- A new neo-Nazi group in Spokane harkens back to era of virulent extremism in the Northwest
- At Denny Park, Seattle quietly tries to remove homeless encampment