September 13, 2011 in City, Region

Fire south of Yakima leaves haze over region

Staff and wire reports
 
Cooler weather toward weekend
The National Weather Service forecast for Spokane and Coeur d’Alene today is sunny with a high near 86, and a low tonight around 52 to 54 degrees. The weather is expected to be about the same on Wednesday, then will cool off some starting Thursday. The high that day is forecast to be 78, followed by 73 on Friday, 72 on Saturday and 69 Sunday. A small chance of showers is forecast Sunday night and Monday.

Smoke from a wildfire in south-central Washington has left a haze over much of the Inland Northwest.

The air quality rating today is moderate in the Spokane area, with fine particulate matter polluting the air, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.

The smoky air is not a serious health concern. People who are unusually sensitive to air pollution should consider reducing prolonged and heavy exertion outdoors, the agency advises.

Firefighters made progress Monday against a wildfire that has destroyed more than 100 structures near Satus Pass, about 10 miles north of Goldendale, Wash.

The wildfire was 70 percent contained by Monday night, fire incident spokesman Dale Warriner said, despite hot, dry weather in the region.

A new GPS assessment puts the area burned since last Wednesday at more than 5.5 square miles, or about 3,600 acres, he said.

A lack of wind has aided firefighters, but those light winds also mean smoke tends to hang over the region.

Air quality was rated unhealthy for everyone Monday in both Goldendale and Toppenish, a city north of the wildfire on the Yakima Indian Reservation, according to the Washington state Department of Ecology. The agency warned residents in those areas to limit their outdoor activities.

Residents who could be particularly sensitive to poor air quality — even those who live as far north as Ellensburg, Wenatchee and the Okanogan Valley — also were advised to limit outdoor activities given the residual smoke. They include people suffering from lung or heart disease, diabetes, a respiratory infection, those who have had a stroke, infants and people over age 65.

Structures burned in the fire, which started along U.S. Highway 97, include 18 homes, five cabins, 56 outbuildings and one bridge. Fire investigators were still researching whether another six homes were primary residences, Warriner said earlier.

There were 1,016 firefighters and support personnel assigned to the fire Monday. Fire managers were expected to begin reassigning some of those people to other wildfires beginning Wednesday.

In a statement, Warriner said the number of people assigned to the fire makes the fire base camp the third-largest settlement in Klickitat County behind Goldendale and White Salmon, according to 2010 Census data.

West of the Cascades, helicopters continued to dump water on a wildfire burning in the Brothers Wilderness Area on the Olympic Peninsula. Cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels were expected to help firefighters there.

About 80 firefighters are assigned to the blaze, which has burned 1,230 acres. No structures were threatened.

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