Gregoire visits town threatened by wildfire


by KING 5 News

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 7:19 PM

 WENATCHEE, Wash. - Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday visited the community of Liberty, where she urged residents who have been asked to evacuate to leave their homes.

"By staying in their homes - not only are people putting themselves in danger, but they're threatening the lives of first responders who may have to go into the fire to rescue them," she said.

The two dozen residents of the town were taking precautions, but they're not going anywhere just yet, even with the Table Mountain fire burning just two miles away.

Larry Smith admitted he'd become complacent after going through the same thing a couple of weeks ago with the Taylor Bridge fire and nothing coming of it.

"It makes you think that well, it probably won't again... you get a little to excited the firs time, maybe or something like that," he said. "This time we're watching pretty close."

Gregoire said she will extend an emergency order for all counties east of the Cascades due to the ongoing threat from wildfires.

"Progress is being made, but we can't let down our guard," Gregoire said. "Across our state, we still have nearly 1,400 homes threatened by flames - and thousands of people have been asked to evacuate. I want to make sure our fire crews have every resource possible - and want to ensure we're taking every step to prevent new fires from starting."

The order ensures continued air support from the Washington National Guard to help fight wildfires and extends a burn ban through Monday, Sept. 24.

Hundreds of residents have been asked to evacuate their homes in central Washington, and more than 4,000 firefighters are battling the blazes.

Gregoire also extended condolences to the friends and family of a contract worker who died after falling ill while helping battle a blaze north of Wenatchee. Authorities said the timber faller died Monday evening.

Poor air quality continues

Many parts of Eastern Washington have stagnant air and high pollution levels from smoke. Smoke from wildfires will continue to affect communities near the fires over the next several days.

Schools in Cashmere are closed for the week because of the smoke.

In some areas - including Wenatchee and Chelan - the air inversion and pollution levels are causing very unhealthy and hazardous air quality that could lead to aggravated respiratory problems, illness and even death for sensitive people.

The worst air quality will be in the late night and morning hours because the smoke gets trapped near the ground during morning temperature inversions. Residents should take precautions by staying indoors, wearing masks if they need to go outside and check with their medical provider if they are having breathing problems.

For more information on air quality in Washington state, visit:

The National Weather Service has issued a stagnant weather advisory to last through at least 5 p.m. on Wednesday for the following areas: Lewiston/Clarkston, lower Garfield and Asotin counties, the Wenatchee area, the Waterville Plateau, and the Kittitas and Yakima valleys. This includes the cities of Lewiston, Clarkston, Wenatchee, Chelan, Entiat, Cashmere, Waterville, Mansfield, Ellensburg, Thorp, Naches, Sunnyside, Toppenish and Yakima.