Editor’s note: This is a live account of wildfire updates from Tuesday, Sept. 15, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated.
Destructive wildfires continue to rip through the state, with firefighters battling some 30 fires in Washington and Oregon.
Throughout Tuesday, 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 Monday are here.
More smoke from Oregon fires on the way
There's more smoke on the way, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle, which said winds from the south are bringing in more from the Oregon wildfires.
The air isn’t likely to really clear out until at least the end of the weekend, said weather service meteorologist Jeff Michalski. And maybe not even then.
“I see a plume of smoke from fires in Northern California and mostly Oregon spreading over the whole Pacific Northwest,” Michalski said on Wednesday. "The amount of smoke is so incredible.”
Michalski said there could be some light showers headed into the Puget Sound region on Friday and Saturday but he couldn’t predict whether that would improve the air quality index, which has been "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy" all week.
A more westerly wind by the end of the weekend “could help,” Michalski said, but the chance for smoke can't be dismissed until the fires at out.
“We're not through it," Michalski said. "We’re still in it until we see it’s clear.”
Volunteers brave Oregon wildfires to rescue stranded livestock
Three dozen wildfires have burned more than 1 million acres in Oregon, killed 10 people, left more than two dozen missing, wiped out several towns, blanketed the state in thick smoke and forced more than 40,000 people to flee their homes.
Amid the devastation, hundreds of volunteers have been scrambling to rescue pets and livestock, sometimes literally driving through flames to reach the stranded creatures.
Confusion reigned as rural residents brought hundreds of animals to the Clackamas County fairgrounds in the city of Canby, only to relocate most of them after hearing — wrongly, it turned out — that an evacuation was being ordered.
Fires spread so quickly last week that many people who evacuated lacked time to round up livestock, or trucks and trailers to transport their animals.
Frantic owners posted plaintive messages on social media with photographs and locations, in hopes that strangers would try to retrieve them.
“My horse is still standing alone at my burned down house,” said a post last week on Cowgirl 911, a Facebook group created to enable rescues. “He has one white foot. He is a bay.”
Alaska Airlines limits employees exposure to smoky air
Alaska Airlines, which halted all flights to and from Portland and Spokane for a 24-hour period because of wildfire smoke, has implemented new fire-safety protocols to protect its employees, according to the airline's Tuesday afternoon blog post.
The temporary flight suspension, which was in effect from Monday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon, "allowed (the airline) time to implement a new safety protocol that directs our employees to work a reduced number of hours outside when there’s poor air quality," the post said.
In addition to limiting employees' exposure during their shifts, Alaska Airlines is also providing them with N-95 masks and other personal protective equipment to help protect them from hazardous smoke, according to the post.
The airline will also use the new safety framework, which was developed by University of Washington occupational physicians, pulmonary specialists and other medical professionals, at airports in Pasco and Walla Walla in Washington, and in Eugene, Medford and Redmond/Bend in Oregon.
Not all environments will benefit from vegetation management used to control wildfires, Inslee says
In some environments throughout Washington, vegetation management could make a difference in wildfire prevention, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.
For example, he said, crews could remove overly dense timber to help reduce the intensity of forest fires. But those options won’t help other environments, like grasslands, said climate adaptation specialist Crystal Raymond during Inslee's news conference.
“You can’t just mow the grass over tens of thousands of acres,” Inslee said. “The solution is to prevent that grass from becoming like gasoline — the aridity dries it out and it becomes explosive.”
Raymond added that the upcoming shift in seasons might not help in the long run.
“The wetter conditions in winter and spring actually increase the amount of fuel that grows … (and) can actually contribute to the wildfire problem in those grass and sagebrush environments," she said.
The solution, Inslee said, is instead to try and stop grasses and other similar environments from getting that dry.
"We need more action on climate change and less excuses (from the federal government)," he said.
Climate expert says wildfire season only expected to worsen
The changing climate will only lead to more destructive wildfire seasons, a climate expert said Tuesday during Gov. Jay Inslee’s virtual press conference.
Because climate change is leading to higher temperatures and arid summers, vegetation across the West Coast is drying out, setting the stage for more extreme fire danger days, longer wildfire seasons and greater acreage burn, said Crystal Raymond, a climate adaptation specialist and forest ecologist, during Inslee’s press conference.
“The situation we’re in now is unfortunate but it does not come as a surprise to fire scientists that have been studying this issue for years. … If we don’t take action now to slow climate change, the wildfire potential will only get worse,” Raymond said.
She added that officials must look at vegetation and forest management, especially in exurban environments, in order to slow the effects of the heating planet.
Inslee: Air quality is at 'historically polluted levels'
The current air quality, which has been dirtied by wildfire smoke for several days, is at "historically polluted levels," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
"Our air quality, I know, is oppressive and it remains unhealthy at best and hazardous at worst," Inslee said, adding that preliminary data shows last week produced more days of hazardous air quality than in any period since the early 2000s.
The fires have burned more than 807,000 acres in our state, destroyed more than 400 structures — half of which are people's homes — and taken down several hundred transmission poles. In Central Washington, Inslee said, about 200 miles of power transmission lines are down.
"Our fire seasons are becoming more intense," he said.
Source: Mariners game against San Francisco Giants on Tuesday postponed due to poor air quality
The Mariners’ game against the San Francisco Giants at T-Mobile Park on Tuesday has been postponed because of poor air quality in the Seattle area, an MLB source confirmed to The Times. Both teams are planning to fly to San Francisco and resume the series on Wednesday at Oracle Park.
According to the Air Now website — which uses government monitors for accurate air quality readings — the Air Quality Index for the area surrounding T-Mobile Park was 240 just prior to 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The AQI scale is measured between 0 and 500, with 0-50 being “good” and the space between 200 and 300 registering as “very unhealthy.”
Despite the smoke, the Mariners and A’s completed a doubleheader — with both games lasting seven innings — at T-Mobile Park on Monday.
After the first game, A’s starter Jesus Luzardo said, “I’m a healthy 22-year-old, I shouldn’t be gasping for air, or missing oxygen, when I’m getting to the line. So I’ll leave it at that.”
Wildfire closes Highway 12 near White Pass summit
Wildfire closed both directions of Highway 12 over White Pass between Yakima and Sunnyslope on Tuesday morning, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.
The Cold Creek Fire started at 10:30 p.m. Monday and was at 60 acres as of Tuesday morning, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Oregon opens mobile morgue for victims of wildfires; 10 confirmed dead and 50 missing
Oregon State Police have opened the first-ever mobile morgue in response to historic wildfires that are expected to result in dozens of deaths.
The morgue was set up in a state facility in Linn County. A separate facility is expected to open this week where families of the dead and missing can undergo rapid DNA testing to aid in identification.
So far, the state has reported 10 deaths from the wildfires. Another 50 people are unaccounted for, a number that officials stress is fluid and may rise as recovery efforts continue. Of those, 22 are confirmed as missing, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Why didn't forecasts give us a clear view of how long we'd be gasping this noxious air? Here's how the models got it wrong and why the smoke is so obstinate. The blazes have burned more than 790,000 acres in Washington — the size of nearly 15 Seattles. We've pulled together more comparisons to help you picture how big the fires are. Plus, you can check their status on this map.
"I am your wife": A tragedy was unfolding in Oregon when a frantic man nearly ran over a badly burned woman crawling in the road, then helped her into his car and kept searching for his family.
The fires are heating up the presidential campaigns. Joe Biden yesterday spoke of seeing the “accelerating, punishing reality” of climate change, while President Donald Trump dismissed concerns that temperatures are on the rise: "I don’t think science knows, actually."
How are the wildfires affecting you?
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