The Odessa Record -

Entire Northwest blanketed by haze


August 16, 2018

--Photo for The Record by Terrie Schmidt-Crosby.

The town of Odessa exhibited gray skies Tuesday afternoon as haze covered the area and, in fact, almost all of the Northwest as the result of lightning-caused wildfires in Washington and additional fires in western Canada. Outdoor sports events in various communities have been canceled or postponed.

This story was compiled based on various official government reports posted to the Internet.

Fires continue to rage all around eastern Washington, with major blazes currently engaging firefighters near Kennewick and around the areas of Coulee Dam, Grand Coulee and Electric City. Officials have determined that lightning was the cause, and firefighters are hard at work endeavoring to contain them.

On Monday, Odessa firefighters responded to a field fire on Rimrock Road, located about half way between Odessa and Wilbur and spent the rest of the afternoon putting out that fire. It did not blacken a very large area, but it did contribute some additional air pollution to the pall that has been hanging over the town since the weekend. Monday morning Odessa woke up to a heavy haze of smoke that officials reported was hazardous to anyone out in it. Citizens were advised to stay indoors if possible and most especially not to engage in any strenuous activity outdoors.

The closest larger blaze to Odessa was the Grass Valley Fire. It began Saturday morning near Mansfield in Douglas County. State fire assistance was mobilized under the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan, supporting local firefighters. Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste authorized the mobilization of state firefighting resources on August 11 at the request of Chief Tyler Caille of Douglas County Fire District 5.

The fire started August 11 at 11:24 a.m., burning grass, brush and timber. By the end of the day, the fire was estimated at 1,000 acres, growing and threatening homes, crops and infrastructure.

Mobilization specialists from the Fire Protection Bureau ordered three wildland task forces and a Type 3 incident management team.

The State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray was activated to Level 2 to coordinate state assistance. State Fire Marshal's Office personnel were sent to the scene to coordinate dispatch of resources.

Under the State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan, the Fire Protection Bureau coordinates the initial dispatch and continued administrative oversight of resources and personnel for the duration of the incident. The Mobilization Plan is implemented to provide a process to quickly notify, assemble and deploy fire service personnel, equipment and other resources from around the state when fires, disasters or other events exceed the capacity of local jurisdictions.

By Tuesday evening, the state's largest wildfire, the Grass Valley Fire, had burned nearly 75,000 acres of grassland and brush west of Grand Coulee Dam. It spread rapidly initially but is now 40 percent contained and is expected to be completely contained by Thursday.

The wildfire broke out on Saturday and quickly moved toward homes and businesses, prompting evacuation orders for about 150 homes near Grand Coulee Dam. One home was damaged and five outbuildings were destroyed before firefighters stopped its progress, and evacuation orders were lifted.

A firefighter suffered burns at the fire near Mansfield. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment.

The Kelly Mountain Fire which also was started by lightning on August 11 and was a part of 11 lightning and storm-related fires reported in the area of Republic/Curlew/Toroda.

As of Wednesday morning, firefighters continued line construction around the perimeter. Under favorable conditions, firefighters were expected to conduct burn out operations to remove unburned fuels within containment lines. Crews with heavy equipment worked to finish constructing a contingency line around the fire, and aircraft were ordered to assist over the fire.

Local resources from US Forest Service, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, along with private contractors, responded to the Kelly Mountain fire that grew rapidly due to strong winds and extremely dry conditions.

The fire is located south of Kelly Mountain, approximately 12 miles north of Republic. No structures or residences were threatened at this time. Local road closures on North Fork Trout Creek Road are in place to ensure firefighter and citizen safety.

With citizen and firefighter safety cited as a number-one priority, citizens were asked to remain clear of the fire area.

The fire was 0% contained as of early Wednesday, with 155 personnel assigned to battle the blaze.

Fire information and the incident command post is located at the Republic Elementary School. Fire information contact is Isabelle Hoygaard at (509) 385-3320.

Several other fires throughout the northwest U.S. and in western Canada created the hazy conditions that now blanket the region. Folks with smoke-related allergies and sensitivity are particularly affected and should do their best to keep indoors until conditions improve.


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