Wildfires are raging across the West Coast from California to British Columbia, as summers continue to grow hotter and drier. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 93 active and large wildland fires have scorched almost 728,000 acres, the majority of them in northwestern states.
There are 11 major wildfires burning across California, including the Mosquito and Fairview fires, amid record rainfall and extreme heat. The Mosquito Fire has consumed over 41,000 acres and is 10 percent contained, while the Fairview Fire has consumed over 28,000 acres and is 53 percent contained. The remnants of Tropical Storm Kay helped firefighters ease the flames and deep-seated heat with its moisture and scattered showers.
However, both fires have destroyed homes and choked the air with thick smoke and pollution. Wildfires in Canada and the United States have led to dangerous air quality levels in British Columbia. By Tuesday, the smoke is supposed to start clearing near the coast and then inland.
Infrastructure, wildlife, and thousands of community members are still at risk as fires continue to blaze. Some evacuation orders were reduced to warnings Sunday, after the rainfall and isolated flooding helped prevent the fire from spreading.
Oregon also sweltered under triple-digit temperatures this past week. Strong easterly winds and dry fuels have made the state and its dry brush a breeding ground for wildfires that burn hotter and longer.
The Cedar Creek Fire in Oregon, which was sparked by a lightning storm on August 1st, grew on Friday and Saturday to over 85,000 acres. It jumped containment lines, leading to evacuation orders for thousands of Oregonians.
Things are looking up though, as fire officials say the extreme wind-driven wildfire activity from the past two days is finally easing. Temperatures have also started to cool and winds calmed.
By Sunday, almost 50,000 Oregon homes and businesses had their power restored, after utility companies cut power as a safety and preventative measure amidst strong winds and vulnerable power lines. Lingering smoke and haze across the area is gradually clearing as well, improving the air quality.
In Washington state, the Goat Rocks Fire was started by lightning and led to the closure of U.S. Highway 12 and evacuations for several communities. Another mountain pass on U.S. Highway 2 was closed Saturday due to the Bolt Creek Fire, which also caused hundreds of evacuations and toxic air to blow into the suburbs of Seattle. Unlike California and Oregon, Washington doesn’t have many regulations for utilities’ wildfire safety and wasn’t prepared to preemptively shut off power in the event of dangerous weather or wildfire event.
For information on wildfire safety, read our explainer here.