Wildfire Smoke to Linger as Hopes for Wind and Rain Dissipate Monday


Darn it.

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.

"Right now, with the system getting weaker, it's not looking very good as far as improvement in air quality today," he said. "We've got to wait for another system later this week, and we could see smoke in the area at least through Friday."

He said the smoke will also continue to keep temperatures cooler than usual, with a predicted high in Seattle on Monday of about 63 degrees.

Throughout Western Washington on Monday, air quality was rated as being "unhealthy," "very unhealthy" or "hazardous" on the state Department of Ecology's interactive air quality map.

A dozen wildfires continued to burn in Washington on both sides of the Cascades on Monday morning.

Most of the state's larger fires were reported on Monday to be moderately to minimally active with several expected to be fully or partially controlled by midweek.

In Washington, only the Inchelium Complex fires were listed as showing "active" fire behavior, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center's (NWCC) Monday morning update.

The blazes, most of which started in the past week, have already burned more than 790,000 acres, or more than 1,234 square miles, almost two-thirds the amount of land burned during the record-breaking season of 2015.

"Extremely heavy smoke continued to pose limitations on travel and suppression operations over most of the region," keeping most aircraft grounded, the update said.

The most active fires are in southern and central Oregon, according to the NWCC, where increased winds and lower humidity hamper firefighting efforts.

Washington's largest fire right now is called the Pearl Hill fire, east of Bridgeport in Okanogan County, which has has grown to more than 223,000 acres. It has destroyed more than 50 homes and other structures and threatens 785 others. It is 80% contained and the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center is estimating it might be fully contained early this week.

The Cold Springs fire, south of Omak in Okanogan County, has burned 189,000 acres and is 45% contained. Multiple structures have been lost, and 110 residences and 75 other structures are threatened. The fire killed a 1-year-old boy and severely burned his parents as they fled.

The Whitney fire is burning northwest of Davenport and has burned 123,893 acres. Evacuations and evacuation notices went into effect Thursday. By Sunday night, fire officials said the blaze was about 45% contained.

The Evans Canyon fire, which has destroyed six homes since it began Aug. 31, is about 8 miles northwest of Naches. It has burned 75,817 acres and is 90% contained.

The three fires that make up what is being called the Inchelium Complex -- the Inchelium Highway fire, Fry fire and Kewa Field fire -- are burning north of Inchelium in Ferry County on the Colville Indian Reservation and have grown to 18,212 acres. The complex is about 40% contained. This was reported to be the most active fire in Washington on Monday.

The Apple Acres fire, northeast of Chelan in Chelan County, is 93% contained and has burned 5,753 acres of grass, brush and timber.

The Big Hollow fire near Stabler, Skamania County, has burned more than 18,110 acres of forest. It threatens 42 homes and is listed as being only 10% contained.

The Babb-Malden/Manning fire northwest of Rosalia in Whitman County has grown to 17,951 acres of grass and brush. The fire, now 50% contained, has destroyed much of the town of Malden, including 121 homes and 94 other structures including city hall.

The Customs Road fire west of Curlew, Okanogan County, is 2,300 acres. Five homes have been destroyed and 180 other homes and buildings are threatened.

Other large fires in Washington include the Downey Creek fire, which has burned 2,470 acres; the Paterson fire in Benton County, which has burned more than 1,300 acres of grass and brush; the Chikamin, which had consumed 1,252 acres; and the Beverly Burke fire, southeast of Vantage in Kittitas County, which by Sunday had burned 1,000 acres.

Felton said that fire season around here typically wraps up in the last weeks of September to the middle of October.

"We still have about three weeks in fire season, but things are winding down," he said.