Preparedness & Recovery

Ash Falls Like Snow in Seattle as Wildfires Rage in Pacific Northwest

It was so thick that dispatchers serving Eastside Fire Rescue received concerned calls about smoke in the area and ash settling on cars.

by Evan Bush, The Seattle Times / September 5, 2017
Firefighters wet down an area that was burned by a wildfire, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, along Interstate Highway 5 in Tacoma, Wash. AP/Ted S. Warren

(TNS) - Ash fell like snow in Seattle Tuesday morning as Washington’s wildfires sent plumes of smoke into the atmosphere.

It was so thick that dispatchers serving Eastside Fire Rescue received concerned calls about smoke in the area and ash settling on cars.

“There is no local fire,” reported the firefighters, who serve the Issaquah, North Bend and Carnation areas. “If you do see flames, please report it to 911 and crews will check it out.”

Haze covered the state from corner to corner, satellite images showed.

Smoke from the wildfires could be seen stretching across much of the United States, according to NASA satellite images.

In the Seattle area, Tuesday will likely see record-breaking heat, said Art Gaebel, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Highs were expected to rise into the 90s, he said, though, “It’s kind of tricky to forecast highs with the smoke in the area.”

The record for this day at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is 88 degrees, Gaebel said.

Insulated by clouds of smoke, overnight temperatures never dipped below 71 degrees at Sea-Tac, making for an uncomfortable night for the 85 percent of Seattleites without air conditioning.

A cool breeze is coming.

“This is the last of the really hot days,” Gaebel said, though tomorrow will be warm.

“We’ll have a system coming through late Thursday night, kicking off some showers and bringing some temperatures down to where they should be this weekend,” he said.

With fire danger high, Gov. Jay Inslee on Saturday declared a state of emergency for all of Washington.

The Norse Peak fire has burned more than 19,000 acres, with smoke from the fire prompting Crystal Mountain Ski Resort to close. By nighttime, Pierce County officials told many in the area to leave immediately. The ski resort Tuesday morning reported that none of its structures were damaged overnight.

Firefighters are starting to return to evaluate the scene, it doesn't appear the fire reached any of our infrastructure overnight.

The Eagle Creek Fire is now burning on both sides of the Columbia River Gorge in Washington and Oregon.

The fire spread Monday as afternoon and evening winds pushed flames west across the steep flanks of the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, causing mandatory evacuations that included the communities of Dodson, Warrendale, Latoruell and Bridal Veil. The fire closed Interstate 84 from milepost 17 outside of Portland to Exit 62 by Hood River, as well as railroad traffic on that side. It also burned close to the Bonneville Dam.

Fire behavior was dramatic, with big swaths of timber set ablaze in matter of minutes. Embers carried by the winds were creating spot fires as much as 3/4 of a mile away from the main blaze, according to a statement released by fire information officers.

The spectacle of the fire on the Oregon side drew many onlookers to viewpoints along the Washington side of the gorge. But by Tuesday morning, the fire had jumped the Columbia River.

The Jolly Mountain fire, near Cle Elum, Roslyn and Ronald, grew to nearly 21,000 acres Monday, with more than 1,000 people evacuated.

The Diamond Creek fire, near the Canadian border in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest, grew to 75,000 acres Monday, said Robin DeMario, a fire-information officer with Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The fire closed several roads and trails, and smoke continues to affect air quality in the upper Methow Valley.

The Jack Creek fire, burning in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area near Leavenworth, forced closures in the popular Enchantments hiking area. The Colchuck Lake, Stuart Lake and Eightmile/Caroline Lake permit areas were closed over the weekend due to fire activity.

Evan Bush: 206-464-2253 or ebush@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @EvanBush.

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