Editor’s note: This is a live account of wildfire developments from Saturday, Sept. 12, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated.
About 30 large fires continued to burn across Washington and Oregon on Friday, torching more than 600,000 acres in our state, destroying hundreds of homes, forcing thousands of people to flee and turning the pristine air of the Pacific Northwest into a hazy mishmash of smoke.
While the weather shifted for the better Friday and helped firefighters contain ongoing blazes, a thick haze settled over Seattle, prompting officials to urge people to stay indoors this weekend. The air quality, confirmed to be hazardous by weather officials, isn’t expected to clear until early next week.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, 40,000 residents have been evacuated and dozens of people went missing while firefighters battled two large blazes Friday. The state’s emergency management director said officials are “preparing for a mass fatality event.”
Throughout Saturday, 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 Friday are here.
More on the wildfires
- ‘Good day’ for Bolt Creek fire crews, but threat isn’t over yet
- Shifting weather helps fight fire in Gifford Pinchot National Forest
- Track wildfires, air pollution and drought conditions throughout Washington, Oregon and British Columbia
- Graphic guide: How to prepare for smoke in your home, car and the outdoors
- Tips for homeowners living in wildfire-prone areas
- How to protect pets and other animals from dangerous wildfire smoke
Three more bodies found in Northern California wildfire
Search and rescue workers found three more bodies in the rubble of a Northern California wildfire, raising the death toll in that fire to 12 and total deaths in the state’s recent blazes to 22.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea announced the additional deaths Saturday but did not provide any details. He said 13 people remain unaccounted for.
The fire, which roared into Berry Creek and Feather Falls in the Sierra Nevada foothills on Tuesday night, destroyed the small town of Berry Creek and other mountain communities in the shadow of a 2018 wildfire that killed 85 people.
Oregon authorities respond to armed people in rural areas setting up roadblocks
A sheriff in Oregon says authorities responded to reports that armed people in rural areas were setting up roadblocks and demanding identification amid heightened tensions caused by wildfires.
Mike Reese, sheriff of Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county, said Saturday that deputies told people such activity was illegal and the roadways remained open. Reese sad authorities have fielded extra patrols.
“The sheriff’s office will not tolerate illegal activity of any kind, including civilian roadblocks,” Reese said.
Earlier this week authorities refuted rumors that anti-fascist activists were setting fires in Oregon.
Puppy found alive in rubble of Northern California blaze
Search and rescue crews have found a puppy amid the rubble of a property destroyed by the deadliest wildfire in California this year.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office said the puppy was covered in soot and had suffered minor burns when it was found hiding Friday on a large property in Berry Creek, a tiny hamlet in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of San Francisco.
Authorities later learned the owner of the property had several dogs and wasn’t able to grab them all before fleeing from the fast-moving flames. They will be reunited.
Oregon man who fought to protect old-growth forests missing in wildfires
A hero of the movement to preserve old growth forests in the Northwest is missing in one of the many wildfires scorching Oregon.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that 72-year-old George Atiyeh hasn’t been seen since the Beachie Creek fire burned down his house near Lyon, southeast of Salem, last week. His daughter, Aniese Mitchell, posted Friday night on Facebook that the family was reporting him as missing.
Atiyeh fought for years in the 1980s to block the U.S. Forest Service from clear-cutting the area around Opal Creek, a pristine area in the Willamette National Forest known for its ancient trees, including a 270-foot tall Douglas fir thought to be 1,000 years old. Federal legislation protecting the area passed in 1996.
The Opal Creek area was hit by the same fire that destroyed Atiyeh’s home, but the extent of the damage there is so far unknown because it remains inaccessible.
Mitchell said she last talked to her father Monday night, and that he was determined to stay because he didn’t believe he was in danger. She said search parties had been looking for him.
Blanket of smoke expected to remain over the Seattle area until early next week
Washington’s wildfires are slowing, but a blanket of smoke is expected to remain over the Seattle area until early next week, when forecasters say cleansing rain and winds should help clear the air.
With smoke drifting eastward from the Puget Sound area, air quality across virtually the whole state was considered “unhealthy” or “very unhealthy” Saturday, according to the state Department of Ecology.
Officials urged people to remain inside, and not to expect to find a secret refuge from the ashy haze spawned by wildfires that have raged this week across California, Oregon and Washington, claiming homes and lives, including a 1-year old from Renton.
“There are no pockets of clean air to retreat to this weekend. Your favorite campground or hiking trail isn’t going to be magically shielded from smoke, no matter what the elevation,” wrote Ranil Dhammapala, of the state Department of Ecology, on the department’s smoke information blog.
Gradual clearing is expected to start on the coast on Sunday, moving west to east, according to the Department of Ecology and the National Weather Service.
Oregon state fire marshal resigns after being placed on paid leave
Oregon’s state fire marshal, Jim Walker, has resigned after being placed on leave amid a personnel investigation.
In a news release Saturday, State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton said only that a leadership change was needed to face the “unprecedented crisis” posed by the wildfires.
Walker did not immediately return a Facebook message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Mariana Ruiz-Temple, the chief deputy state fire marshal, has been named to replace him.
In a written statement Saturday, Gov. Kate Brown said Ruiz-Temple had “led with grace, transparency and courage” and that she “embodies the experience Oregon needs to face this crisis.”
California fire victim was animal enthusiast
A California woman killed in one of the state’s wildfires was known as an animal lover who would often rescue stray dogs and cats.
Authorities confirmed Friday that 77-year-old Millicent Catarancuic died near her home in Berry Creek, California. Catarancuic’s nephew, Zygy Roe-Zurz, said she loved animals and had four dogs and several cats at her 5-acre property in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of San Francisco.
Roe-Zurz said Catarancuic was “sharp as a whip” and loved to play FreeCell, saying she could win the game in about 80 seconds.
Authorities say nine people have died in the North Complex fire in Northern California. Roe-Zurz said his mother, Suzan Violet Zurz, and his uncle, Phil Rubel, also lived at the property and are missing.
Trump to visit California for wildfire briefing
The White House announced Saturday that President Donald Trump will visit California on Monday to receive a briefing on the devastating wildfires that are burning throughout the West Coast.
More than 20 people have died in wind-whipped blazes in California, Oregon and Washington. The Democratic governors of all three states have said the destruction and speed of the blazes are unprecedented and they blamed climate change for making conditions worse.
Better weather aids battle against deadly West Coast wildfires
Diminishing winds and rising humidity helped firefighters battling deadly blazes in Oregon and California, but with dozens of people still missing, authorities in both states feared that the receding flames could reveal many more dead across the blackened landscape.
Oregon’s emergency management director said officials were preparing for a possible “mass fatality event,” and the state fire marshal was abruptly placed on administrative leave.
In California, smoke that painted skies orange also helped crews corral the state’s deadliest blaze of the year. The smoke helped blocked the sun, reducing temperatures and raising humidity, officials said.
Watch: See an animated smoke forecast for Saturday in Washington and Oregon
The wildfire smoke blanketing Washington and Oregon will linger with "little change" expected in the Seattle area on Saturday, according to the latest forecast.
The smoke will move east throughout the day, shrouding more of Eastern and Central Washington, while continuing to hang over Seattle and the Puget Sound, according to an animated forecast map tweeted out by the National Weather Service in Seattle.
Forecasters predict the smoke will linger throughout the weekend. Officials have urged residents to remain inside, as the air conditions were considered "very unhealthy" in Seattle as of Saturday morning.
Gov. Inslee touring fire damage in Douglas County on Saturday
Gov. Jay Inslee will tour the fire-ravaged area of Bridgeport in Douglas County on Saturday.
Inslee plans to visit Bridgeport at 10:30 a.m., according to a news release from the governor's office, which said Inslee will meet with local first responders, law enforcement, elected leaders and residents. Inslee also will meet with members of the Colville Tribes, whose reservation is nearby.
The area around Bridgeport was hit by the Cold Springs and Pearl Hill fires, which have burned more than 400,000 acres in Okanogan and Douglas counties -- the largest of the ongoing wildfires in the state, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Earlier this week, Inslee toured the charred remains of Malden in Whitman County, which mostly burned to the ground on Labor Day, leaving 200 residents homeless. The governor has issued a proclamation providing cash assistance to people whose lives have been upended by the fires.
FBI debunks 'untrue' rumors that wildfires in Oregon were set by extremists
The FBI says rumors about political extremists setting wildfires in Oregon are false, backing local law enforcement agencies who have sought to quash a torrent of misinformation about the fires on social media.
In a statement issued Friday, the FBI in Portland said law enforcement agencies have received reports that extremists are responsible for the fires.
"With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue," the agency's statement said.
False rumors and conspiracy theories have rocketed across Facebook and other social media over the past week. Some blamed fires in Oregon and Washington on far-left antifa activists, while others pointed to the far-right Proud Boys group. Sheriffs and police agencies turned to Facebook to quash those reports.
"Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control. Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources," the FBI statement said.
There have been reports of people setting fires, but no evidence of a coordinated political arson campaign, according to law enforcement officials.
One person was arrested Thursday in Tacoma for allegedly using matches to light grass on fire at a highway interchange. On Wednesday, state troopers arrested a Puyallup man after they say he was seen setting a fire in the median of Highway 167.
In Eastern Washington, Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said this week that the death of a 1-year old boy burned in fires raging south of Omak is being investigated as a homicide in case the blazes were found to be set by persons.
Most Read Local Stories
- Researchers warn of mental health risks of high-potency cannabis
- Buttigieg wades into Northwest salmon transportation
- Seattle to score another warm and sunny weekend
- Kirkland ranked third-best place to live in U.S. by Money magazine
- Judge: Facebook intentionally violated WA campaign finance law 822 times