Heavy smoke returns to Puget Sound due to west coast wildfires

A hazy red sun this morning was caused by wildfires. Andy Nystrom/Redmond Reporter

Heavy smoke and falling ash returned to the Puget Sound this week as several large wildfires burn across the west coast and into Montana.

As of Tuesday, the largest fire in the state was the Diamond Creek Fire, which is burning north of Mazama and crossed the border into Canada on Aug. 29.

According to the government fire monitoring website Inciweb, the fire had consumed 95,000 acres and was 65 percent contained.

Closer to home is the Jolly Mountain Fire, which was started after a lightning strike on Aug. 11 and is burning in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

The fire has led to level 3 evacuations in parts of Kittitas County near the fire, and the towns of Ronald and Roslyn have been put under level 2 evacuations.

The fire has burned more than 20,000 acres and helped prompt Gov. Jay Inslee last Saturday to proclaim a state of emergency across the state. This allowed for the mobilization of the National Guard to help in firefighting efforts.

More than 700 personnel are currently fighting the fire.

Ten other fires were reported in the state on Inciweb and have contributed to the poor air quality and falling ash on Tuesday.

Air quality in Puget Sound, according to the WaSmoke blog, was generally rated as moderate, while portions of eastern Washington were ranked as significantly less healthy.

People who are sensitive to smoke, such as children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions were advised to limit their exposure and refrain from heavy exertion.

A quick-moving fire known as the Eagle Creek Fire jumped the Columbia River on Tuesday, reaching into southern Washington, according to The Columbian.

A group of around 100 hikers was also rescued after being stranded by the fire Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon, the Everett Herald reported.

The largest active fire reported on Inciweb was the Lodgepole Complex in Montana. Although it was reported to be 93 percent contained as of Tuesday, it had burned more than 270,000 acres.

The next largest one was in Oregon and is called the Chetco Bar Fire. It started after a lightning strike in July and has burned more than 167,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained.

These fires come after smoke from large fires in British Columbia caused severe smoke to flood Washington state earlier this summer.

According to the Everett Herald, the worst fire season Washington had was in 2015, when a record 15,800 square miles of land in the state burned.

Redmond Fire Department Spokesperson Mike Hilley said no Redmond firefighters had been deployed and that there were no fires in their service area which extends east from the city limits.

He also urged people to stay inside and limit their time outside.

Smoke masks can also be used as long as they are rated N-95 or higher, meaning they can filter out fine particles in the air, like smoke.

The Mercer Island School District announced that it is monitoring air quality on the Island and keeping elementary students inside during recess due to the wildfire smoke. Outdoor sports practices were canceled on Tuesday due to poor air quality in the area.

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