Warm, dry weather increases wildfire activity in western Washington and Oregon

A fire southeast of Salem prompted evacuat.ion orders Tuesday

Numerous wildfires have broken out recently in western Washington and northwest Oregon after several days of warm, dry, and windy weather.

“That’s a result of very strong dry eastern winds that have been pushing across the cascade mountain range and through the Columbia Gorge,” Northwest Coordination Center fire weather program manager John Saltenberger told KGW8 news.

A fire southeast of Salem, Oregon near Lyons jumped the Santiam River and prompted evacuation orders on Tuesday, which were lifted Wednesday. Reported Tuesday afternoon near the North Santiam State Recreation Area off Highway 22, it was mapped at 189 acres after firefighters stopped the spread. By Thursday morning they had a fire line around 80 percent of the perimeter.

A three-alarm vegetation fire south of Seattle in White Center started in a vacant lot Wednesday afternoon. Burning embers landed on the roof of an apartment building and set it ablaze, damaging all seven units in the structure.

The King County Sheriff’s Office reported that a 34-year old man was arrested, suspected of setting the fire.

No residents were injured but two firefighters were transported to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

TDN.com reported that the Washington DNR responded to eight wildfires in its seven-county Southwest Region on Wednesday — three in Cowlitz, two in Lewis, two in Clark and one in Wahkiakum.  All of the personnel from Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue, were out on fires Wednesday.

Below is an excerpt from TDN.com:

About 40 firefighters and three state helicopters Wednesday fought a wildfire east of Cathlamet that was estimated Tuesday at 40 acres but had grown to 100 acres Wednesday. DNR Spokeswoman Mary McDonald said late Wednesday afternoon it is considered contained.

The fire, which broke out Tuesday and was spread by brisk gusts, burned up a steep slope on the north side of State Route 4 in the Little Cape Horn area. The highway remained opened, said Russ Truman, fire dispatch and prevention officer for the State Department of Natural Resources regional office in Castle Rock.

McDonald said a DNR helicopter was rerouted from the wildfire near Cathlamet to Tower Road after reports the brush fire had reached a structure there. Further details were not available.

“We are tapped,” [ Cowlitz 2 Fire Chief Dave] LaFave said. “Our people are worn out. This is a record. I’ve been in this department 36 years, and I’ve never seen this. People need to stop burning. … There can’t be anything so pressing that (burning) needs to happen right now.”

Russ Truman, fire dispatch and prevention officer for the State Department of Natural Resources regional office in Castle Rock said “Things are burning like they do in September.”

Eatonville (referenced in the tweet below) is about 50 miles south of Seattle.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Stanley. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

2 thoughts on “Warm, dry weather increases wildfire activity in western Washington and Oregon”

  1. If a fire can jump the Santiam River, or the Columbia River, what good is it to damage the environment by grinding fire lanes across the landscape? Seems futile.

    1. A fire break will stop fire running on the ground. And that’s a majority of the fire spread.

      Fires crossing a river are due to embers carried by wind. While we do see fires spread that way, there have to be other things happen before they cause a fire.

      Cutting line isn’t futile.

      As I type this, I am eating lunch at the fire east of Cathlamet, working on mop up with my crew. It’s amazing how dry the duff and ground fuels are.

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