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Fire conditions ripe

Tue., Sept. 18, 2012, midnight

Wenatchee blazes 17 percent contained

A temperature inversion moved into the Wenatchee area Sunday evening, holding smoke close to the ground in a region where 1,700 people are fighting a complex of wildfires burning on about 51 square miles.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated because of the fires that were helped by unseasonably warm temperatures. The area is extremely dry, and conditions are right for rapid growth on existing fires and new fire starts, fire managers said.

In Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, an air stagnation advisory that was issued on Sunday was lifted. An intensifying system of higher air pressure is bringing enough warm air to the eastern side of the Columbia Basin to allow smoke to rise into the atmosphere and minimize the concentration of pollutants.

The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency reported air quality in the good range throughout Monday.

All of the big fires burning in Washington started during a Sept. 8 lightning storm. About 3,700 firefighters, comprising every available firefighter in the state and some from Canada, were battling the fires.

The Wenatchee complex of wildfires was about 17 percent contained as of early Monday. No homes had burned, but nearly 800 houses and other structures were threatened. The firefighting effort has so far cost an estimated $8.1 million.

A cluster of fires known as the Yakima complex continued to burn in Yakima and Kittitas counties, south and west of the Wenatchee complex. The Yakima complex, covering 1,150 acres, was 10 percent contained and threatened about 400 homes. It has so far cost $4.1 million to fight.

The Sheep and Cache Creek fires south of Lewiston were among several burning in central Idaho, causing smoke problems in that region.

Also as of Monday:

• The Table Mountain complex in Kittitas County had burned 2,600 acres, was zero percent contained and threatened 50 homes and structures.

• The Okanogan Complex in Okanogan County covered 4,231 acres, was 15 percent contained and threatened 64 homes and structures.

• The Cascade Creek fire in Klickitat County covered 6,467 acres, was 4 percent contained and threatened 16 homes and structures.



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