66 large fires burn in U.S.: Washington state evacuates thousands

Firefighters in Ramsey Crossing, Calif., tackle the Mosquito Fire on Sept. 15. The biggest fire in California this year has burned nearly 76,800 acres and has been active for 39 days; it’s now 95% contained. Photo: Eric Thayer/Getty Images

A wind-driven fire exploded to 2,000 acres overnight before diminishing slightly to roughly 1,500 acres in southwest Washington state as authorities ordered evacuations for thousands of homes.

Latest: Nakia Creek Fire remains 5% contained as of Monday morning, though evacuation zones have shrunk since Sunday night, according to the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency. “Smoke was very heavy yesterday and even grounded aircraft fighting the fire,” the agency said in the update.

Our thought bubble, via Axios’ Andrew Freedman: The most dangerous wildfire weather conditions, which helped propel several large blazes in Washington state this weekend, have begun to shift. Slightly cooler, more humid air is present in western Washington in particular, helping firefighters to battle the flames.

  • The strong easterly winds that dried out vegetation and yielded extreme fire behavior this weekend have died down. Temperatures are expected to remain milder than average through midweek, and by late this week, much cooler and rainy fall weather is forecast to arrive in the Pacific Northwest.

The big pictures: There’s an unusually high number of wildfires burning in the Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West and Canada, as much of the Western United States faces “above normal temperatures and minimum relative humidity,” per the National Inter Agency Fire Center.

The NWS tweeted on record high temperatures in Washington state, including 72F in Seattle.
Photo: National Weather Service Seattle/Twitter
  • There are “record high temperatures, dry weather, wildfire concerns and air quality issues across the Pacific Northwest continues,” the National Weather Service said in a forecast update on Monday morning.

By the numbers: Washington’s Nakia Creek Fire, near Camas, east of Vancouver, which prompted Sunday’s evacuation orders, is one of 66 large fires in the US, according to the NIFC’s latest data.

  • The Clark Emergency Services Agency expanded evacuation zones in response to the fire Sunday, affecting 35,000 to 40,000 homes, KGW reports.

Zoom in: Smoke from that Washington wildfire in eastern Clark County that’s razed some 2,000 acres was “visible throughout the metropolitan area that Vancouver shares with Portland, Oregon,” AP notes.

  • An air quality advisory remained in place for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley in southwestern British Columbia due to wildfires in Washington and Canada, per a Metro Vancouver tweet Sunday evening.
A Twitter post by Canada's BC Wildfire Service about firefighters responding to several lightening-caused fires.
Photo: BC Wildfire Service/Twitter

Zoom out: 24 large fires were burning in Idaho, 22 in Montana, 13 in Washington and five in Oregon, per the NIFC data.

  • California and South Dakota each reported one large fire.

Background: Scientific research shows climate change is a key factor in wildfire risk.

What we’re watching: “The Northwest will remain warmer than normal over the next few days thanks to the continued presence of a staunch upper-level ridge,” the National Weather Service said in an outlook update on Monday morning.

  • “Some records may be tied or broken over the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies on Tuesday.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.


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