Wash. officials warn about unhealthy air from fire

AP News
Posted: Sep 13, 2011 1:26 AM
Wash. officials warn about unhealthy air from fire

Firefighters made progress Monday against a Washington state wildfire that has destroyed more than 100 structures near Satus Pass. Still, health authorities warned residents in Eastern Washington about poor air quality as a result of the fire.

The wildfire burning about 10 miles north of Goldendale 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 1/2 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.