Editor’s note: This is a live account of wildfire updates from Thursday, Sept. 10, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated.
Fierce winds and dry, hot weather have helped rapidly spread dozens of wildfires throughout Washington state since Monday, filling the Puget Sound region with smoke, forcing hundreds of families to flee their homes, knocking out power in thousands of others and claiming the life of one child.
As of Wednesday, roughly 587,000 acres of Washington had burned — amounting to roughly half the size of 2015’s record-setting fire season, which burned more than 1 million acres.
The smoke from the fires is polluting the air, causing it to reach unhealthy levels on both sides of the Cascade Mountains. Here’s how to reduce your exposure.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday are here.
Officials squash rumors of far right, far left setting fires
Raging wildfires in the Pacific Northwest have fueled a barrage of false information this week as unsubstantiated social media posts blamed coordinated groups of arsonists from both the far left and far right for setting the blazes.
Officials turned to Facebook on Wednesday and Thursday to squash competing narratives — some posts blamed far-left antifa activists and others said the far-right group the Proud Boys were responsible for fires that have scorched wide swaths of Oregon and Washington state.
“Remember when we said to follow official sources only,” the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon posted. “Remember when we said rumors make this already difficult incident even harder? Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in DOUGLAS COUNTY, OREGON.”
As fires heavily damaged the small Oregon towns of Phoenix and Talent, the Medford Police Department posted on Facebook that officers had not arrested anyone affiliated with the Proud Boys or antifa, which is short for anti-fascists, a range of far-left militant groups that oppose white supremacists.
Medford police also debunked a fake graphic spreading online that used the department’s logo and a photo from an unrelated 2018 arrest to falsely claim five Proud Boys had been arrested for arson.
With their homes in ashes, and injured animals roaming, victims of Washington state wildfires wonder what’s next
OMAK, Okanogan County — The fire crested the hills above Luke McKee’s home with little warning.
Driven by high winds and fed by drought-baked shrubs, flames ripped down the hillside and cut an unpredictable, horseshoe-shaped path that overwhelmed his attempts, aided by a local fire truck, to save the ranch house where he and his wife and two sons had lived for 11 years.
On Thursday afternoon, McKee stood by the ashes of his property south of Okanogan, just off State Route 97. The house, designed by his late grandfather, had burned to the foundation.
“It looked like, for a while, with a little bit of grace we would avoid it,” said McKee, whose family was unharmed and who was able to save belongings including photographs as well as several horses before the fire.
The Cold Springs and Pearl Hill fires have burned more than 346,000 acres in Okanogan and Douglas counties — the largest blazes of the state’s suddenly devastating 2020 fire season.
On Thursday, smoke hung in the air, with tendrils rising from charred trees and bushes south of Omak, even as families, friends and fire crews were cleaning up, taking stock and planning relief efforts.
Ed Townsend, fire chief of Okanogan County Fire District 8, unfolded a paper map retrieved from his pickup and pointed to a swath of nearby acreage.
“Everybody inside here lost 100%,” he said. “It’s catastrophic enough where we have got to start from the ground up.”
Highway 410 remains closed due to Sumner Grade Fire
Fire officials said Thursday evening that the Sumner Grade Fire, which has burned about 800 acres near Bonney Lake, remains about 20% contained, and that while conditions haven't worsened, "there is still much work to do."
Both directions of Highway 410 remain closed between 181st Avenue East and 166th Avenue East, East Pierce Fire & Rescue said on Twitter. All of Myers Road is also closed. Power companies are continuing to replace and reconnect power lines that were destroyed on Highway 410.
Officials hadn't ordered any additional evacuations as of 7:30 p.m. and are allowing a phase re-entry of some previously evacuated areas. For more information about which areas have been cleared for residents to re-enter, click here.
Oregon reels from fires that moved with tremendous speed on western Cascade slopes
ESTACADA, Ore. — Kyle Nichols worried about floods, and maybe an earthquake, on his rural homestead in Clackamas County east of Portland, where he lives with his wife and twin 3-year-old daughters.
But in this part of the state, where rains drench the forest and lowlands for much of the year, fire did not seem to be much of a threat.
Then Monday evening, just as he crawled into bed, a neighbor drove by honking and yelling for everyone to evacuate.
Nichols looked outside. Across a nearby field, he saw a wall of flames burning in timber — and headed his way.
Communities that have suffered some of the most severe fire damage include Detroit and Blue River in the Cascades, and Talent and Phoenix in southwest Oregon. Fires also have upended Clackamas County, which extends from the Cascade Mountains to the eastern edge of the Portland area. So far, more than 200 structures have been lost to fire.
On Thursday, amid thick smoke that lay like fog across the landscape, the continued fire threat triggered Level 2 evacuation notices — urging people to be ready to leave on short notice — in larger communities east of Portland that included Oregon City, Canby and Sandy.
Inslee issues emergency order to give cash assistance for Washingtonians impacted by wildfires
OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday issued a proclamation intended to give cash assistance to families and individuals whose lives have been impacted by Washington’s wildfires.
That assistance will be provided through the state Department of Social and Health Services. The proclamation expands the agency’s Family Emergency Assistance Program to serve individuals and also waive a one-time distribution limit, according to a news release from Inslee’s office.
"For families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the devastating wildfires ravaging our state, funding from the Family Emergency Assistance Program can be, quite literally, a lifesaver," Inslee said in the statement. "The state will continue to look for ways to support communities as we work together to recover from multiple economic and health emergencies."
People may apply for the assistance at washingtonconection.org or by calling 877-501-2233, according to a spokesperson for the agency.
Read the proclamation here.
Saturday’s OL Reign match against Portland postponed due to poor air quality from wildfires
The OL Reign’s return to action will be delayed.
The Bold’s ‘Fall Series’ match against the Portland Thorns scheduled Saturday in Portland has been postponed due to health concerns from smoke from wildfires in Oregon and along the West Coast, the National Women’s Soccer League announced Thursday.
The match has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at Providence Park in Portland.
Read the full story here.
West Coast fires impacting air quality in British Columbia
There are 31 actives fires burning in British Columbia and a poor air quality alert is in effect for Vancouver and the surrounding area because of smoke from Washington and Oregon fires.
The 19,700-acre Doctor Creek fire, located in southeast British Columbia, has been burning since August and remains out of control, according to the BC Wildfire Service. The Talbott Creek fire, about 70 miles north of the U.S.-Canada border, has burned 1,500 acres.
Environment and Climate Change Canada issued an alert for Vancouver in anticipation of wildfire smoke from the fires raging in Washington and Oregon. The air quality will likely worsen Thursday evening and Saturday, the department said.
Inslee says nearly 600,000 acres scorched
MALDEN — Wildfires have scorched nearly 937 square miles in Washington state this week, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday as he toured the devastated remains of the town of Malden.
That’s more than in any year in the state’s history except for 2015, Inslee said, calling it “the worst few days in wildfire history for Washington state.”
“We’ve had this trauma all over Washington,” Inslee said, according to KHQ-TV. “But this is the place where the whole heart of the town was torn out.”
Malden is a farm town set among wheat fields about 35 miles south of Spokane.
Malden Mayor Chris Ferrell said residents only had minutes to get out of town before the wind-drive flames moved in on Monday. No one was killed or seriously injured.
Inslee said the state is already responding to the losses in Malden, which had around 200 residents, and nearby Pine City, which was even smaller.
Recreation sites, businesses reopen in Yakima River Canyon after fire
Ellensburg Canyon Winery owner Gary Cox packed up a truck last week and parked in the driveway, ready to leave on a moment’s notice if the Evans Canyon Fire jumped the Yakima River.
Fortunately, that disaster scenario never happened, and like most everything else in the Yakima Canyon, the winery reopened on Wednesday. The fire started north of Naches on Aug. 31 and burned into Kittitas County and the canyon’s west side.
Both Cox and Joe Rotter, who co-owns Canyon River Ranch and Red’s Fly Shop, said the lack of physical damage didn’t stop the fire from harming their businesses.
“At (the Canyon River Grill) that was set to be our biggest week of the year,” Rotter said. “As a seasonal business, that was really impactful for us.”
Read the full story here.
More than half of Clackamas County in Oregon under level 3 evacuation
More than half of Oregon’s Clackamas County is under a level 3 evacuation, which means residents in the area should leave immediately, because of wildfires.
The level 3 evacuation zone includes Mollala, a city of about 9,000 south of Portland, and Estacada, which has about 3,500 residents. The designation means danger to the area is imminent.
The larger cities of Canby, Sandy and Oregon City are under a level 2 evacuation, meaning that anyone in the area should be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
Clackamas County wildfire evacuation zone updates are available here.
Highway 410 closed east of Enumclaw and from Sumner to Bonney Lake
A section of Highway 410 is closed between Sumner and Bonney Lake and another is closed east of Enumclaw because of wildfires.
Highway 410 will remain closed from 166th Avenue East in Sumner to Veterans Memorial Drive East in Bonney Lake through the weekend, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The Sumner Grade Fire, which has burned about 800 acres, scorched the guardrails and burned across the highway.
East of Enumclaw, Highway 410 is closed near Southeast Mud Mountain Road because of downed power lines and trees.
Pedestrian arrested for allegedly setting fire in Tacoma
A person was arrested Thursday for allegedly using matches to light grass on fire at a highway interchange in Tacoma.
Someone observed a pedestrian lighting matches at Highway 512 and Highway 7 and called 911, according to the Washington State Patrol. A trooper arrested the pedestrian after a brief foot chase.
On Wednesday afternoon, troopers arrested a Puyallup man after they say they observed him setting a fire in the median of Highway 167 in north Puyallup.
Air quality alert in effect through Monday morning
The National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert in effect through Monday morning across Western Washington.
The air quality will be either unhealthy for sensitive groups or unhealthy through the weekend, according to the weather service. Conditions will worsen overnight as smoke settles.
Meanwhile, a smoke air quality advisory remains in effect for southwest Washington and northwest Oregon until noon Monday. The air quality will reach unhealthy to hazardous levels, which can cause serious health effects for most of the population.
Death toll in Oregon fires expected to rise
Runaway fires in Oregon have caused a still uncertain number of deaths and destroyed hundreds of homes amid mass evacuations.
Some communities, including Detroit and Blue River in the Cascades, and Talent and Phoenix in southwest Oregon, have been substantially destroyed, according to Gov. Kate Brown who spoke to reporters on Wednesday.
The Oregonian reported Thursday that at least three people have died in fires. This toll is expected to rise in the days ahead.
“This could be the greatest loss of human life from wildfire in our state’s history,” said Brown, who called the fires “unprecedented.”
Some of the most destructive fire have been pushed by fierce east winds through heavily timbered valleys and canyons on the west side of the state, including blazes now burning east of Portland, Salem and Eugene.
One glimpse of the tremendous speed of the fires’ expansion can be gleaned from a report on the Beachie Creek fire in the Cascades.
The Beachie Creek fire was originally listed at 469 acres but grew overnight Monday to 131,000 acres. Wildland firefighters were forced to evacuate their encampment, and the conflagration, which threatens communities in the Santiam Canyon east of Salem, was made worse by a series of small fires caused by downed power lines.
The entire corridor of the Santiam Canyon have been under a Level 3 (Go) order as that fire burns west toward the community of Scotts Mills.
The status of major wildfires in Washington state
Pearl Hill: The fire, east of Bridgeport in Okanogan County, has grown to 174,000 acres and was about 10% contained as of Thursday morning. More than 50 homes and other structures have been destroyed and 785 others are threatened.
Cold Springs: The fire, south of Omak, has burned 172,000 acres and is 10% contained, and its fire behavior remains extreme. Multiple structures have been lost, and 110 residences and 75 other structures are threatened. About 275 firefighters are working on this fire. A 1-year-old boy died and his parents were severely burned while fleeing the fire in Okanogan County.
Customs Road: The fire west of Curlew, Okanogan County, is 2,288 acres and is 15% contained. Five homes have been destroyed and another 180 homes and buildings are threatened.
Apple Acres: The fire northeast of Chelan in Chelan County has grown to about 6,300 acres and is 36% contained as of Thursday morning. It remains very active, with spot fires crossing fire lines, Patterson said. The fire is burning grass, brush and timber, and threatening 20 structures.
Inchelium Complex: The three fires that make up the complex -- the Inchelium Highway fire, Fry fire and Kewa Field fire -- are burning north of Inchelium in Ferry County on the Colville Indian Reservation, have grown to 14,834 acres. It is about 20% contained.
Manning Road: The fire north of Colfax in Whitman County is 25% contained. It has burned 3,063 acres of grass, brush and timber.
Beverly Burke: The fire, southeast of Vantage in Kittitas County, has burned 1,000 acres and is 79% contained.
Babb: The fire northwest of Rosalia in Whitman County has grown to more than 17,781 acres of grass and brush. It is uncontained. The fire has destroyed 121 homes and 94 other structures.
Whitney: The fire is burning northwest of Davenport and has burned 102,935 acres of grass and brush. It is uncontained. Evacuations and evacuation notices are in effect.
Evans Canyon: The fire is about 8 miles northwest of Naches and began on Aug. 31. It is 75,817 aces and 80% contained. Six residences have been destroyed.
Gifford Pinchot closing trails due to Big Hollow Fire; Cougar area told to prepare to evacuate
Facing growing wildfire threats, Gifford Pinchot National Forest is planning to close all developed campgrounds, dispersed camping, day-use areas, wilderness areas and all forest roads and trails within the southwestern portions of the forest.
On Wednesday, nearly a day after announcing the forest closings, National Forest officials could not predict when they would occur, as the Big Hollow Fire continued to grow.
“If you have plans to be in this area of the forest, please consider making alternate arrangements,” National Forest officials had said in a Tuesday press release.
There is also a forest-wide campfire ban that went into effect Wednesday. Local fire officials encouraged Cowlitz County residents to sign up for emergency alerts through the Cowlitz County Department of Emergency Management.
Read the full story here.
'Super-massive' plume of smoke headed this way
A “super-massive” body of smoke from fires in Oregon and California is moving over Southwestern Washington today, and is expected to impact Western Washington overnight.
So far, most of the smoke is still too high to cause health effects, but forecasts show it will begin mixing downward, with air quality turning unhealthy starting tonight on the Olympic Peninsula then moving through the I-5 corridor, according to the Washington Smoke blog.
Air quality in the Columbia Gorge is also expected to worsen to unhealthy levels by tomorrow morning.
A more detailed forecast is expected this afternoon.
Thursday will be hottest day of the week, with critical fire weather conditions
It’s going to be a hot one.
Thursday will be the hottest day of the week in Western Washington, according to the National Weather Service, with continued critical fire weather conditions.
The forecasted high in Seattle is 90 degrees, a rarity that would break the day’s record of 85 degrees last set in 2007. The weather service has recorded only 15 September days when it reached 90 degrees in the past 76 years.
Temperature forecasts along the coast are in the low to mid 80s, with mid- to upper 90s in the interior lowlands. Some cities in the South Sound could surpass 95 degrees.
Friday and Saturday could bring some relief, with temperatures in Seattle ranging from the mid-70s to low 80s, according to the weather service.
Rain isn’t forecast until next week.
Air quality still unhealthful
Air quality alerts remain in effect until 11 a.m. Thursday throughout most of Western Washington because of the easterly winds carrying smoke from the fires in Eastern Washington.
Couple burned while fleeing Cold Springs fire still in critical condition
The Renton couple who suffered third-degree burns while fleeing the Cold Springs fire in Okanogan County remains in critical condition Thursday morning in the intensive care unit at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, according to hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg.
Their 1-year-old child died in the blaze — the state's first reported death of the fire season.
The family’s abandoned and wrecked car was found Tuesday afternoon and had been burned, according to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. On Wednesday morning, search-and-rescue crews found the 31-year-old man and 26-year-old woman with their baby along the bank of the Columbia River; by then, the baby was already dead. The couple was taken to Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster and then flown to Harborview on Wednesday afternoon.
Harborview has the only Level I trauma and burn center for the region, according to Gregg.
In southwest Washington, one fire grows while another is extinguished
Fires across the region continue to rage Thursday morning as low humidity and gusty winds keep the area at elevated risk.
The conditions helped the Big Hollow Fire in southwest Washington — first reported Wednesday morning — grow from 6,000 to 22,000 acres in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
According to the Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, residents of north Clark County were told Wednesday night to be ready to evacuate.
Meanwhile, a fire that caused evacuations in Bonney Lake on Tuesday night has been extinguished, according to a tweet from Bonney Lake police.
That blaze began behind a Target store, the Bonney Lake Police Department tweeted around 9:30 p.m. Homes within a three-block radius were evacuated.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Fire conditions are dangerous in much of Western Washington today, as blazes threaten Washingtonians on both sides of the Cascades. The state has seen its first reported death of the fire season: A 1-year-old boy from Renton was killed and his parents were burned while fleeing a blaze in Okanogan County. Today, temperatures are heading toward records and air quality remains unhealthy.
How to reduce your exposure to unhealthy air: That cloth mask won't help, but a doctor and an atmospheric scientist are sharing their advice on what will.
Recreation is turning into “wreckreation,” as COVID-cabin-fevered people venture out and damage public lands across Washington — including, it seems, sparking wildfires with careless or clueless behavior. Here's how to make sure you're recreating responsibly.
A Northern California fire incinerated a community and killed three people after its size exploded by six times in just a day. Now it's threatening thousands more homes. Here's the latest on California's fires.
Between firenadoes and blazes that run 15-mile sprints, it's taking only days to produce what had once been seen as extreme, once-in-a-lifetime fires.
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