Persistent hot and dry conditions have mixed with windy weather and lightning strikes to intensify dozens of wildfires burning across the Northwest.
Both Oregon and Washington have now declared States Of Emergency, calling in help from the National Guard to battle the blazes. Many of the new fires erupting in the region are believed to have been sparked by dry lightning striking parched brush.
“Oregon is facing a severe fire season. Conditions are dry and new fires are starting daily,” Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber said as he made the emergency declaration.
Thirteen major fires are burning across Oregon, primarily in the center of the state. In eastern Oregon, multiple wildfires known as the Buzzard complex, have consumed 90,000 acres. The 4,319-acre Waterman Complex of fires is keeping 420 firefighters busy around the clock. Residents in nearby Marks Creek have been warned to be ready to “leave at a moment’s notice.’
In Washington, 860 homes have been evacuated and another 800 residents are on alert, as the Chiwaukum Creek fire has raced through two square miles of forest, sending up a 25,000 foot smoke plume that can be seen 120 miles away in Seattle, In the nearby town of Leavenwort, the smokey skies prompted an “unhealthy” air quality alert. A nearby 15-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 2 has been closed until further notice. Winds around 18 mph and temperature topping 104 are helping the fire spread.
Two National Guard helicopters have been sent to help tackle the Carlton Complex of fires burning in north-central Washington’s Methow Valley. About a dozen homes have been evacuated. The National Weather Service posted red flag warnings and fire weather watches for hazardous fire weather conditions including high temperatures, low humidity and high winds for much of Eastern Washington from Wednesday afternoon through Friday.
Washington’s largest wildfire, the Mills Canyon blaze, which has consumed 35 square miles, is now 40 percent contained.
Wildfires are also burning in Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California.