Wildfires Threaten Homes, Pollute Air in Pacific Northwest

CLE ELUM, Wash. (AP) — Wildfires were threatening thousands of homes and hindering travel in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday.

The region has not seen rain since early June and high temperatures have primed it for big fires, Washington Deputy State Fire Marshal John Wabel said.

One such blaze has burned 23 square miles (60 square kilometers) about 80 miles (129 kilometers) southeast of Seattle and forced authorities to issue new evacuation notices. About 3,800 homes were at risk, authorities said.

Temperatures in the city of Cle Elum near where the fire burned were expected to reach 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius), and the humidity was only 12 percent, Wabel said.

“That’s desert-level humidity,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to start a fire.”

Elsewhere, crews contained a fast-moving brushfire in the foothills of Boise, Idaho, and some people affected by a blaze on the southern Oregon coast were allowed to return home.

Dozens of wildfires across Oregon have forced the evacuation of more than 4,500 people.

Many lightning-sparked fires were sending large plumes of smoke into the air, causing disruptions in holiday travel and shutting down camping areas.

Officials warned drivers on Highway 140 between Bly and Lakeview to watch for decreased visibility due to smoke as well as intermittent road closures and emergency response vehicles due to a fire east of Bly.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has warned of possible evacuations in the Elk Lake and Lava Lake areas, and officials warned of unhealthy air quality for the city of Bend and the surrounding area due to two fires that merged in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area along the crest of the Cascade Mountains.

In Washington state, law enforcement went door to door with evacuation notices in communities near the city of Cle Elum, Seattle news station KOMO-TV reported (http://bit.ly/2wvXSWB ).

The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office told people in the area that they should leave and warned others in the towns of Ronald and Roslyn and surrounding areas that they should be prepared to go because of the approaching fire.

A Red Cross shelter for those evacuating was set up at the Putnam Centennial Center in Cle Elum.

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