The weekend weather forecast offers little relief for many smoke-blanketed communities in Eastern Washington, especially those along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.
"Air quality in the Wenatchee area has remained in the 'hazardous' category for over a week now, with each day being a little worse than the previous,” said Ecology forecaster Ranil Dhammapala.
Cashmere and Entiat are in a similar situation. Leavenworth, Ellensburg, the upper and lower Yakima Valley and Chelan have been recording 'very unhealthy' conditions.
“This scenario is not expected to change much over the next few days," said Ecology forecaster Ranil Dhammapala.
A new website from a variety of state, local and federal agencies offers information the wildfires, as well as information about air quality.The site also includes an interactive map that gives information about fires in the state.
State health officials have sent more than 20,000 respirator masks to local health agencies hit hardest by the wildfires.
The Red Cross, as as well as McGlinn’s Public House restaurant in downtown Wenatchee have been handing out masks.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has issued a burn ban in Eastern Washington, which is in effect until midnight Monday.
All residents in the Wenatchee area should stay indoors and curtail their physical activities both indoors and outside. Doors and windows should remain closed. In the remainder of the Yakima and Columbia Basin common sense precautions should be taken by everyone, but sensitive groups, such as children, the elderly and heart patients, are particularly vulnerable.
The biggest health threat comes from the fine particles in smoke. These can cause burning eyes, runny nose, bronchitis and other illnesses. Smoky air also can aggravate heart and lung diseases, and even lead to death.
The Wenatchee World reports the Red Cross has opened a free smoke relief center at the 7th Day Adventist Church at Fifth Street and Western Avenue in Wenatchee.
Bonaventure Senior Living will have two smoke relief centers for people 65 and older starting Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.:
- Bonaventure of East Wenatchee, 50 29th Street NW
- Columbia Heights Senior Living, 1550 Cherry Street, Wenatchee
Authorities prepare for large Wash. fires to merge
No relief is in site for crews awaiting fall rains or mountain snow that typically end the wildfire season. A lightning storm forecast to sweep through the region Saturday could ignite even more blazes and bring little to no rain.
So far, firefighters have largely been able to protect homes and other structures.
Some cooler temperatures are expected for Eastern Washington next week, which could help reduce fire activity. But the forecast does not call for the kind of soaking rain needed to make a significant impact.
A red flag warning remained in effect for a large portion of the state through Saturday evening.
Rex Reed, the incident commander leading the fire-fighting effort, said it's unprecedented for a red flag warning or red flag watch to be in effect in Washington this time of year. Typically, lightning months are late July through mid-to-late August.
The Table Mountain Fire, which has a 40-mile perimeter, is only five percent contained and the growth potential is considered extreme. The Wenatchee Complex is 24 percent contained.
Learn how a smoke column can create its own lightning.
About 600 homes are threatened and many are under a Level 3 evacuation, meaning residents are urged to leave and nobody is being allowed back into the area. No homes have been lost to the Table Mountain Fire. Firefighters are burning a perimeter around the homes to eliminate the fuel that could cause the wildfire to consume them.
“We’re just going to continue working on the fire lines, trying to secure that and make sure it’s really tight. We’re looking at some fire to come down some of the canyons at a slow pace so we’re going to try to make sure to keep control of that,” said Tim Perciful, firefighter spokesman.
An emergency animal shelter has been opened at the Chelan County Fairgrounds for large domestic animals. Small animals may be sheltered at the Countryside Veterinary Clinic, 405 Ohme Road.
Washington smoke information