Firefighters brace for lightning across Northwest


Firefighters battling 26 large fires across Oregon, Washington and Idaho braced Monday for dozens more as another round of lightning storms crosses the Northwest this week.

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland reports that intense lightning was expected Monday from the coast, across the Cascades and into Idaho. The storms start out mostly as dry lightning, and by Wednesday or Thursday should have some rain with them.

“We’re in for it, I think,” center spokeswoman Carol Connolly said.

Red flag warnings for hot weather and lightning stretched from Northern California, across Oregon and Washington state, into Idaho and western Montana.

By midmorning Monday, there had already been 1,600 lightning strikes, most of them in south-central Oregon on the eastern side of the Cascades. In Oregon’s central Cascades, crews chased after three dozen new fires started by lightning in the Willamette National Forest. With hot dry weather raising fire danger to a new high, the Washington Department of Natural Resources banned all outdoor burning on state-protected lands, including campfires and charcoal in campgrounds.

Computer models suggest 15 to 25 new fires could start, particularly in and around the Cascades, the center reported.

Incident commanders at existing fires designated crews to be ready to attack the new fires as they erupt, Connolly said.

Dozens of lightning fires have been burning across the Northwest for the past month and threaten more than 2,500 rural homes, but firefighters were making progress against most of them.

The Carlton Complex in north-central Washington state, which burned across more than 400 square miles and destroyed more than 300 homes since it was ignited by lightning nearly a month ago, is 92 percent contained. Full containment is expected Friday. In Oregon, the Rowena fire, which burned one house and 5.7 square miles of scrub oak and brush on the steep, windy slopes of the Columbia Gorge west of The Dalles, was 65 percent contained. In Idaho, the Big Cougar fire was 50 percent contained after burning more than 100 square miles in remote country along the Snake River.

In some areas, smoke, not flames, created problems. In Oregon, the air quality index was unhealthy in Grants Pass in the southwestern corner of the state, and in Enterprise in the northeastern corner. In Washington, Pullman and Leavenworth reported unhealthy conditions. And in Idaho, state air quality authorities reported concerns for the Clearwater Basin from local fires, and the Panhandle from smoke blowing in from elsewhere.

In Oregon on Sunday, a wildfire trapped 19 hikers for a time at Saddle Mountain State Park near Seaside.

KPTV reported that the Coast Guard sent a helicopter to assess the situation and plans were being made for an airlift. But rescuers on the ground were able to escort the hikers safely out of the area.

More in Local News

Turkey talk: Kindergartners explain the Thanksgiving holiday

Our annual pilgrimage led us this year to Pathfinder Kindergarten Center in Everett.

Police locate suspect in Snohomish River after he fled

They used a thermal-imaging camera to locate the man in the water near Dagmars Marina.

Electrical fire on roof of Marysville school extinguished

There was no apparent structural damage to Cascade Elementary School.

As police closed in, 2 heavily armed pot-shop robbers fled

Cops surrounded the place in Mountlake Terrace. The suspects were tracked by dogs and apprehended nearby.

Hiker rescued on Boulder River trail after 15-foot fall

She was reported to have possible leg and rib fractures.

Alleged philanderer attacked with hammer near Everett

His girlfriend had accused him of cheating and allegedly called on another man to confront him.

Front Porch

EVENTS Holiday lights parade in Monroe Monroe will host a Holiday Lights… Continue reading

Snohomish County Council passes a no-new-taxes budget

The spending plan still funds the hiring of five new sheriff’s deputies and a code enforcement officer.

Most Read