Heat advisory as wildfire smoke chokes Snohomish County

EVERETT — An unusually dry summer has prompted a statewide emergency as wildfires in Washington scorch thousands of acres and threaten homes.

Governor Jay Inslee made the announcement Saturday.

Most of those fires are burning on the east side of the state.

Snohomish County fire departments have volunteered equipment, such as fire engines and trucks that carry water. Meanwhile, firefighters here have been busy extinguishing flames in dry brush along I-5.

Less than an inch of rain fell in Everett during June, July and August, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle. And, the one time it rained in August more closely resembled a sprinkle.

This summer also has been marked by higher than normal temperatures. They are not expected to cool off until later in the week.

The Weather Service has issued a heat advisory that is in effect until Tuesday night. Communities in the east Puget Sound lowlands can anticipate temperatures in the upper-80s to mid-90s that day.

Those living near the west slopes of the Cascade Range are under a red flag warning. That means the dry, hot weather has concocted prime conditions for fires to start and spread quickly. The Snohomish County Fire Marshal’s Office has upgraded the existing outdoor burn ban to include recreational fires. The ban is expected to stay in place until the rain comes.

Smoke from wildfires is expected to flood into Snohomish County through Tuesday, which also has prompted an air quality alert. The alert is scheduled to expire Wednesday. The Weather Service warned that the smoke is considered to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children, older adults and those with respiratory illnesses.

However, a smidgen of relief appears to be around the corner. Meteorologists predicted a chance of showers on Thursday through Sunday for much of the county. Temperatures are forecast to lower into the 70s.

The heat hasn’t been troublesome for everyone.

Terry Myer, of Lake Stevens, has spent the summer tending to the Eagle Ridge Community Garden as well as her backyard garden. The heat has been friendly to most plants, she said.

She has been picking 40 pounds of tomatoes daily. So far this season, she has collected 50 gallons of blackberries.

Typically, the local berry season only lasts three weeks, Myer said.

“It started really early because of our warm weather, and we’re still picking blueberries,” shesaid. “They should have been done weeks ago.”

Volunteers have been visiting the community garden daily to keep up with the harvest and to water plants.

They send the produce to the Lake Stevens Food Bank. Last year, they donated 2,000 pounds of food. Myer expects to double their donations this year.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com

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