By Mike Irwin / The Wenatchee World
More than 135 wildfires have scorched nearly 1 million acres in southern British Columbia to produce much of the smoke that this week blankets North Central Washington.
Some of that smoke has traveled 650 to 700 miles — from as far north as Prince George, B.C.— to affect air quality throughout NCW and as far south as Yakima. Satellite photos show a wide smoke plume flowing across most of Washington and extending nearly to the Oregon state line. Air quality and visibility on the west side of the mountains have also been affected.
In-state fires are also contributing to the smoky mix. At 7,000 acres, the Diamond Creek Fire in the Pasayten Wilderness and the 180-acre Suiattle Fire near Darrington are helping worsen the region’s air quality and visibility, but experts attribute most of the smoke in the region to the B.C. blazes.
A few details on the B.C. fires:
• Around 138 active wildfires in British Columbia — two dozen are substantial in size — have scorched 939,000 acres since ignited by lightning storms on July 7.
• Ten days after the initial lightning sweep, nearly 40,000 residents were evacuated from their homes in a number of B.C. cities. As of Wednesday, 6,000 people were still unable to return to their residences due to fire threat.
• Most of the B.C. fires are under 5,000 acres in size and burning in a mix of grass, sage and scattered timber. Larger fires include the Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire (333,589 acres) near Williams Lake, the Elephant Hill Fire (208,611 acres) near Kamloops, the Tautri Complex Fire (158,738 acres) near Williams Lake, a fire designated C10812 (88,908 acres) near Quesnel and the Chezacut Wildfire (29,652 acres) near Williams Lake.
• The area burned this year by wildfire in B.C. has hit a 56-year high. It pales, however, to lands scorched in 1958, when fire spread across more than 2.1 million acres in British Columbia alone.