Editor’s note: This is a live account of wildfire updates from Monday, Sept. 14, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated.
Firefighters are battling some 30 fires in Washington and Oregon. Howling east winds early last week drove huge fires across the region, including on the west side of the Cascade mountains, where wildfires are less common but can become massive.
A “super-massive” smoke plume billowed into the region over the weekend, and Monday’s air quality forecast continues to look grim across most of Western Washington. Here’s how to reduce your exposure, and what the weather forecast says about when smoke could clear.
Throughout Monday, 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 Sunday are here.
Alaska Airlines temporarily suspends all flights to and from Portland and Spokane, citing air quality concerns
Alaska Airlines announced Monday that it's planning to temporarily suspend all flights to and from Portland and Spokane as the region continues to battle unhealthy air quality and devastating wildfires.
The flight suspensions went into effect at 3 p.m. Monday and will last until 3 p.m. Tuesday, according to a statement from the airline, which has already canceled dozens of flights.
"Across the West, fires are creating thick smoke and haze, causing very poor air quality conditions in the Portland and Spokane areas," the statement said. "We made the difficult decision to stop our operation so that our employees and guests can remain safe."
Alaska Airlines and its regional carrier Horizon Air have also canceled flights at smaller airports due to the smoke, including in Pasco and Walla Walla in Washington, and Eugene, Medford and Redmond/Bend in Oregon.
Manager Scott Servais says air quality situation doesn’t cause major issues for Mariners
If the circumstances were different – something that has been said often in the pandemic-shortened baseball season of 60 games – the doubleheader Monday between the Mariners and A’s at T-Mobile Park might not have been played in acrid haze that offered an uncomfortable reminder of when smoking still was allowed in airplanes and establishments.
But because the two seven-inning games were scheduled as part of the way to make up a three-game series postponed in early September due to a positive COVID-19 test from A’s pitcher Daniel Mengden in an already condensed season, the possibility of postponing them again seemed unlikely if not impossible.
Despite air conditions considered unhealthy for physical activity for any person, even professional athletes, the two teams played through a smokey haze for 14 innings to finish the two games.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said none of his players had any issues or complained about the conditions after the first game.
“It’s one of the reasons you know you got the roof on so you get some backdrop there and you can see the ball when it goes up in the air,” he said. “So no issues there. It’s certainly a little bit different than what you’re used to, but nobody had any problems.”
Jerry Brown, on talk of California exodus, says, ‘Where are you going to go?’
LOS ANGELES — Jerry Brown, the former governor of California, could barely make out the mountains in the distance from his ranch in the city of Williams on Sunday. Every few minutes, he picked up his phone to check the latest air quality reading. “Unhealthy,” he said.
Brown, who served over 45 years in state government and politics, has been warning about this day for years. But he said by telephone from his ranch that he never expected this moment to come so soon. And he never thought the air around his home, which he built in the wilderness of his family ranch, an hour’s drive north of Sacramento, would be this shrouded.
But still, for all the fire and the smoke, Brown presented himself as the resolute chief ambassador for the state that has so long been associated with the Brown family name. He declared he was not going anywhere and dismissed the latest round of talk about people fleeing California.
“You might say, ‘We are getting out of here — we are going someplace else,’ ” Brown, 82, said. “No. There are going to be problems everywhere in the United States. This is the new normal. It’s been predicted, and it’s happening. This is part of the new long-term experience.”
Trump spurns science on climate: ‘Don’t think science knows’
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With the smell of California wildfires in the air, President Donald Trump on Monday ignored the scientific consensus that climate change is playing a central role in historic West Coast infernos and renewed his unfounded claim that failure to rake forest floors and clear dead timber is mostly to blame.
The fires are threatening to become another front in Trump’s reelection bid, which is already facing hurdles because of the coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and social unrest. His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, in his own speech Monday said the destruction and mounting death toll across California, Oregon and Washington require stronger presidential leadership and labeled Trump a “climate arsonist.”
Trump traveled to Northern California to be briefed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state and federal officials. At one point, state Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot urged the president to “recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests.”
“If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians,” Crowfoot added.
Trump responded, “It will start getting cooler, just you watch.”
Crowfoot politely pushed back that he wished the science agreed with the president. Trump countered, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”
Checkpoints, burned towns, eerie quiet: The slow reveal of Oregon wildfire damage
STAYTON, Oregon — One week after fire first hit the town of Detroit, Mayor Jim Trett still has not been able to return to the lakeside Cascade Mountain community.
In briefings far from his home, he has been told by firefighting officials that there are still too many hot spots, too many trees and telephone poles at risk of toppling and too many unstable slopes that could cut loose landslides across roads.
So he tries to piece together what has happened from photos and videos taken by firefighters, law enforcement officials and a few residents who managed to get past the roadblocks to reach the town of 210 year-round residents and some 1,300 people who reside there seasonally in second homes.
“From what I can see, 90% of the community is gone. Our post office is standing, part of a hotel and a storage unit building,” Trett said.
The slow pace of assessing the Detroit damage reflects the epic scale of the Oregon fires that last week — largely driven by fierce east winds — burned through more than 900,000 acres of the state, destroying hundreds of homes and killing at least 10 people, as confirmed by the state medical examiner, with local medical examiners expected to continue to report additional deaths.
Crews continue working to fully contain Sumner Grade fire
The Sumner Grade fire, which had burned about 800 acres near Bonney Lake, is now at 85% containment, according to East Pierce Fire & Rescue.
Crews will continue to secure the fire's perimeter and eliminate any threats to nearby structures Monday night and Tuesday, the fire department said on Twitter.
Highway 410, which has been closed due to the fire since last week, will reopen "as soon as possible," the tweet said.
Woodland Park Zoo closed Tuesday due to unhealthy air quality
The Woodland Park Zoo will be closed Tuesday due to continued unhealthy air quality in Seattle, the zoo said in a Monday statement.
"Our dedicated team will continue to be on-site, and our Animal Care staff will keep animals under observation and monitor for any signs of respiratory compromise," the statement said. "Indoor access and/or precautions for geriatric and vulnerable animals are in place."
Anyone who bought tickets for Tuesday will be contacted about reimbursement. The zoo plans to reopen Wednesday but said that could change based on air quality conditions.
Seattle closes beaches, boat ramps, parks due to unhealthy air quality
Seattle's beaches, boat ramps, parks and playfields will be closed through Wednesday in an attempt to protect residents from the smoky air, the city said in a Monday statement.
City officials won't issue citations, the statement said, but all residents are encouraged to avoid outdoor activities and stay inside until the air clears. Restrooms in parks will remain open.
The Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area will also stay closed through Wednesday, and the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail will remain closed until further notice, the statement said.
The city's free COVID-19 testing sites, however, will remain open on Tuesday, including at its Aurora Avenue and Sodo drive-thru sites, and its Rainier Beach High School and South West Athletic Complex walk-up sites.
King County's emergency smoke relief shelter also remains open until at least 10 a.m. Wednesday as the haze stays settled over the region, the county Department of Community and Human Services said in a Monday blog post.
The 24/7 shelter -- located at 1045 6th Ave. South in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood -- can accommodate about 100 people at a time, and offers each person their own cot, meals and on-side health care if needed.
Why isn’t the smoke clearing out? Models sometimes get it wrong
We have polls to try to gauge public opinion. We have models to forecast atmospheric conditions.
Sometimes they’re wrong.
Just as pollsters sometimes fail to correctly predict elections, weather and atmospheric models over the weekend failed to forecast the staying power of the wildfire smoke that’s cloaked Washington in a noxious haze for the past four days and now looks likely to hang on for another four.
As recently as Sunday, officials thought the smoke would start clearing out on Monday. Now, it looks like it won’t be until the end of the workweek. The state Department of Ecology predicted unhealthy air on Tuesday for virtually all of Western Washington and very unhealthy air for most of Eastern Washington.
There are two reasons for the smoke’s obstinance: The meteorological forecasts predicted a weather system blowing in from the Pacific coast late Sunday and into Monday, bringing rain and wind, and dispatching the smoke. Instead, the system mostly petered out. And the atmospheric models that predict how the weather will affect the air mostly failed to account for the physical effects of the smoke itself.
The smoke is making temperatures cooler than they would otherwise be, which, in turn, may be helping the smoke linger.
Mariners doubleheader with A’s still on despite air-quality issues
With forest fires raging in California, Oregon and throughout Washington, the air quality in the Puget Sound area was at unhealthy levels for most of the weekend and into Monday. But the Mariners are set to play a doubleheader Monday afternoon.
The Mariners dealt with smoky air while playing last week in San Francisco, but avoided those issues over the weekend in Phoenix. The climate-controlled Chase Field also made sure those games would be played.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow in Seattle,” M's manager Scott Servais said in a pregame video call on Sunday. “You guys are there. It sounds like the weather may get a little bit better. The air quality … we’ll just have to wait to see what it reads tomorrow at the ballpark.”
As of Monday, the Mariners said the doubleheader will be played with first pitch of Game 1 scheduled for 2:10 p.m. Marco Gonzales is starting for Seattle, and lefty Jesus Luzardo is going for Oakland. Game 2 would follow at 5:05 p.m.
Smoke to linger as hopes for wind and rain dissipate Monday
That weather system we were hoping would blow through Western Washington on Monday and clear out the smoke is turning out to be weaker than expected, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.
It could be Friday before we get another chance at the kind of rainy, windy weather we need to push the smoky air from our region, said weather service meteorologist Dana Felton.
Oregon residents, fearing looters amid wildfires, post signs threatening to kill intruders
Smoke-veiled country roads in Clackamas County are taking on a dystopian feel, as residents in the wildfire evacuation zone post signs boasting of armed patrols and threatening to shoot and kill looters.
Several signs contain some variation of “You loot, we shoot.” One sign captured by a photographer for the Portland television station KPTV between Estacada and Colton was more detailed: “We won’t call your family. Your body will never be found!! Bang bang!”
It’s a grim scene, even in a year that has already brought a global pandemic and recession.
Law enforcement officials around the state have spoken out to dispel false reports spreading on social media of widespread looting in evacuation zones, as tens of thousands of Oregonians have been forced to flee wildfires.
Law enforcement and community members have also had to contend with armed residents in both counties setting up illegal roadblocks to control who enters and leaves.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Check the status of Washington state's major fires on this map.
Shifting winds are threatening to accelerate blazes across the West today. President Donald Trump is in California amid a fight with West Coast governors (including Gov. Jay Inslee) over the role of climate change.
On top of COVID-19, fast-moving fires are threatening farms and farmworkers amid Washington's apple harvest.
The apocalyptic scenes are a sign of how east winds and hotter summers could fuel more devastating fires west of the Cascades. And in California, nearly 150 million dead trees could stoke even more massive firestorms, say scientists who have long pushed for preventive steps.
"It’s really tough to fight a fire with a broken heart." One Oregon fire chief had to order the evacuation of her own family and then stay on the firefighting line as nightmares came true.
How are the wildfires affecting you?
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