Sights of ash and smoke greeted residents of Washington and Oregon as more than a dozen large fires burned through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest Saturday.
The combination of low humidity, gusty winds and drought conditions created favorable settings for fires to spread rapidly.
More than 5,000 firefighters are working to control the large blazes that have destroyed over a quarter of a million acres.
Smoke and ash were reported from Seattle to Portland as easterly to southerly winds caused the fires’ plumes to drift towards populated communities.
Air quality alerts were issued for several counties in the region due to readings in the unhealthy range. The National Weather Service advised residents near Seattle to stay indoors, avoid strenuous activity and close windows and doors because of the thick smoke.
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The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center is working at least 15 large blazes throughout the region.
“What makes a large fire is 100 acres or more in timber or 300 acres or more in grass or brush. Until then it is usually under local jurisdiction,” NICC public information specialist Carol Connolly said.
The fires of most concern to incident command teams include the Cedar Creek, Double Creek and Boulder Mountain and the newly sparked Bolt Creek Fire.
Cedar Creek Fire – Oregon
The NICC reports the fire has burned more than 51,000 acres and is 12 percent contained.
Most of the flames are burning inside the Willamette National Forest, but private lands are threatened in the western part of the state.
An estimated 1,900 homes have been put under some type of evacuation notice as firefighters have only been able to contain around 12 percent of the blaze.
It is believed storms in early August produced lightning that started the fire. The US Forest Service said around 20 to 30 new fires started because of the storms.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared an emergency Friday to help mobilize sources for the fire burning in Lane County.
“The Cedar Creek Fire grew rapidly towards Oregon communities this morning, and the fire’s growth potential in the coming days is troubling, requiring additional resources to fight the fire and support the state’s response,” Governor Brown said in a statement.
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Double Creek Fire – Oregon
The Pacific Northwest’s largest fire of the year has consumed more than 147,000 acres in eastern Oregon along the Snake River.
Officials said between 100 to 200 homes are threatened, and the fire is burning close to the community of Imnaha.
Similar to the Cedar Creek Fire, August thunderstorms that produced lightning are being blamed for starting the blaze.
Nearly 800 personnel are working to bring the fire under control and at last report was only around 15 percent contained.
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Boulder Mountain Fire – Washington
The Boulder Mountain Fire is burning in the northeast corner of the State of Washington, and the NICC says it is another example of lightning sparked blazes.
Because of the rural nature of the fire, only 24 structures are threatened, but crews have had some success in controlling the wildfire.
Nearly 2,000 acres have burned, and official containment is reported to be around eight percent.
A mixture of state, federal and private land is being impacted, and firefighters have reported difficulty working the fire because of the terrain and heavy timber.
Bolt Creek Fire – Washington
The Washington State Department of National Resources says firefighters are in structure protection mode for a fast fire that started east of Seattle on Saturday.
Authorities estimate the Bolt Creek Fire has burned more than 2,000 acres and is zero percent contained.
Evacuations have been ordered around the town of Skykomish by the King County Sheriff’s Office.
First responders said at least 300 homes are threatened by the fire.
So far, no word on what sparked the initial flames.
Much of California receives reprieve from fire weather
Higher humidity values and increased rains from Tropical Storm Kay have helped slow the spread of several major fires in California.
CAL FIRE reports the Fairview and the Fork fires in the southern and central parts of the state are at moderate containment levels.
A blaze that continues to burn out of control and threaten homes is the Mosquito Fire in the Tahoe National Forest.
Firefighters report more than 33,000 acres have burned, and there is zero containment.
So far in 2022, CAL FIRE and the US Forest Service report more than 6,200 fires have burned over 316,000 acres in the Golden State.