DARRINGTON — Get ready for a hot, smoky weekend.
Winds have pushed wildfire smoke into Western Washington, worsening air quality. Smoky conditions are expected through Sunday, and it may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, the National Weather Service said in an air quality alert.
The smoke is coming from several fires in the North Cascades, according to the Washington Smoke Blog.
Meanwhile, most of the region is under a red flag warning this weekend. The warning means hot, dry weather could spur rapid spread of wildfires.
Air quality in Darrington was ranked the worst in the state Friday, according to a monitoring network. The conditions were considered unhealthy for everyone, and people were advised to limit time outdoors and avoid strenuous activity.
The Darrington High School football game was moved to Marysville on Friday evening due to smoke. Air quality was rated as moderate in Marysville and Everett on Friday.
An outdoor burn ban remains in place for Snohomish County. Recreational fires are banned in areas under the red flag warning. Almost all of Snohomish County is in a red flag area through midnight Saturday.
Three wildfires in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest northeast of Darrington were estimated at a combined 1,184 acres. Suiattle River Road — a key access route to the Pacific Crest Trail and other remote hiking destinations — was officially shut down Friday beyond Forest Service Road 2640.
From Tuesday to Friday, the Suiattle River fire grew from an estimated 47 acres to 66 acres. The Boulder Lake fire was estimated at 654 acres, up from 617. The Lake Toketie fire was 464 acres, up from 457.
Crews were actively fighting the Suiattle River fire, using bucket drops via helicopter. The terrain is too steep to put firefighters on the ground, Kit Moffitt, fire management officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said at a community meeting in Darrington on Thursday.
The Suiattle River fire was a priority due to proximity to private property, cultural sites, state lands and historic structures. Both the Boulder Lake and Lake Toketie fires are further east and further from “value at risk,” according to the Forest Service. Crews are working to improve and strengthen confinement lines around all three fires.
A Level 1 “Be Ready” Evacuation Notice remains in place for the lower Suiattle Valley, north of the Suiattle River. The alert means residents should be ready to leave: “There is no immediate danger to your home, family or business, but the fire or other danger may be moving toward you.”
Moffitt said all three fires were sparked by the same lightning storm in late August. The Boulder Lake and Lake Toketie fires were discovered on Aug. 24 and 25, shortly after the storm. The Suiattle River fire smouldered in a tree for five days and was not discovered until Aug. 30, he said.
A total of 81 crew members are helping with fire suppression.
Trails, roads and campgrounds near the fires remain closed. Closures include Suiattle River Road (Forest Road 26) at the 10½ mile marker, Buck Creek campground, the Boulder Lake trail, the Huckleberry Mountain trail, the Buck Creek trail, the Green Mountain trail, the Downey Creek trail, the Suiattle River trail, the Sulphur Creek trail, the Sulphur Mountain trail and the Tenas Creek trail.
Contact the Darrington Ranger Station at 360-436-1155 for updated trail and road closures, or check the Forest Service’s website.
Sierra Pacific Industries on Friday closed its private forestlands in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties due to high fire danger, according to a news release. The company typically allows the public to access the lands for hunting, fishing and other recreation. The closure will be in place until Tuesday.
Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jacq_allison.
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