Monday, July 22, 2024

Critical Regional Fire Risk

Critical fire weather continues throughout the state with the hot and dry conditions. The Pioneer Fire has grown to 30,000 acres and continues to impact the communities of Chelan, Manson, and Stehekin. Dry lightning in North Central Washington also caused the Easy Fire (350 acres) and the Miners Complex (500 acres). On the Colville Reservation the Swawilla and Bridge Creek Fires are together burning almost 10,000 acres. In Southeast WA, the Cougar Creek Fire has grown to 8,270 acres. While temperatures will start to cool starting this evening as a dry cold front passes through the region, active fires will continue to grow due to the windy and dry conditions over the next few days.

Active fire detections in the region as of this morning:

MODIS and VIIRS Fire Detections for the past 2 days.

There are currently several very large fires in Oregon currently burning over 100,000 acres. Aside from contributing haze above the surface to the state, we don't expect any smoke impacts over the next few days from these large-scale Oregon Fires. There are also a few fires in British Columbia to keep an eye on--Calcite Creek (1300 acres) and Shetland Creek (43,000 acres)--smoke from these fires will stay away from Washington thanks to south/southwest winds over the next few days. There are also quite a few active wildfires in eastern BC north of the Idaho/Washington border--later in the week smoke from these fires could potentially influence Northeast WA, but impacts are uncertain as of now.

In Washington, communities closest to active wildfires will continue to observe the greatest smoke impacts. The current Air Quality Alert for Chelan County and Methow Valley remains in place. Air quality will likely be unhealthy on the Colville Reservation due to smoke from the Swawilla and Bridge Creek Fires; the Colville Confederated Tribes have issued an air quality advisory. Increasing winds from the west starting this evening will clear out lingering haze in the rest of the state. Please continue to recreate responsibly and heed all burn bans.


Friday, July 19, 2024

Haze and Heat Continue East of the Cascades

Fires remain active in the state with 5 large fires currently being reported. The Pioneer and Cougar Creek fires remain active and 2 new fires started on Wednesday as a result of lightning. The Easy fire located within the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF was listed at 150 acres and Swawilla I (Colville Agency, BIA) is listed at 600 acres on the Colville Reservation. The Shoofly fire, also located on the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF, is last reported at 104 acres, and no new information has been received. 

 

Photo: Smoke rises above the Easy Fire on July 18, 2024 in the Methow Valley in north central Washington. Source: USFS 

Smoke rising above the Easy Fire on July 18, 2024. Photo via the USFS on inciweb.wildfire.gov. 

 

A ridge of high pressure will bring extreme heat east of the Cascades this weekend, especially on Sunday when temperatures are likely to break some daily records. Under that dome of heat, expect stagnant air and light winds across the region. This weather pattern should allow some wildfire smoke and haze to build up east of the Cascades Saturday afternoon through Sunday. It’s likely that most of eastern WA will be seeing MODERATE or UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS by Saturday night which should continue into Sunday before some improvement is possible early next week. While all of eastern WA may see some impacts, communities near larger incidents remain focus areas for the greatest air quality impacts. This includes Chelan, Twisp, and Winthrop near the Pioneer Fire as well as Clarkston and Asotin near the Cougar Creek Fire in southeast WA. 

                                                 Heat risk across eastern Washington on Sunday, July 21.  

In Western Washington, air quality is likely to remain GOOD to MODERATE over the weekend across the lowlands. There could be some wildfire smoke/haze from larger Oregon fires passing through at upper levels of the atmosphere on Sunday. So, skies might look a bit less blue than normal but it’s unlikely to affect surface air quality. That being said, those folks seeking out recreation activities in higher elevations of the Olympics and Cascades could have some air quality impacts on Sunday similar to those described for the eastern half of the state.  

For more information on protecting your health during an extreme heat event, visit this earlier post from the WA DOH, ‘Take Extra Care When It’s Hot and Smoky’.