Wildfire outlook: Fire concerns spread west of the Cascades


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – We may be entering one of our most dangerous weeks for the fire season as threatening wind picks up Monday evening.

This will be a matter of concern for Washington and Oregon. It is one of our highest threats for rapid fire spread west of the Cascades this summer. That Red Flag Warning remains in place until Wednesday evening, promoting awareness for dry and breezy conditions that are prone to rapid fire spread. Take it easy the next few days with any sort of fire. Outdoor burning is very much not recommended.

One of the largest changes from last week’s wildfire outlook (find here), is the acres consumed by wildfires in Washington. Washington went from ~20,000 to more than 77,000 acres. This is mostly because of the Evans Canyon fire, which grew substantially last week.

What about the forecast? We are following that week of dry weather, which is still intact. That dry weather is now being paired with extremely dangerous winds. The week is starting off with a NWCC preparedness level of 5. That is something that we have yet to come across since doing the wildfire outlook this season.

The relative humidity is going to remain low all week even after the wind subsides. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) put out the fire weather outlook for Monday and Tuesday. Locations in the Willamette Valley at an extreme level, lowering to a critical level by Tuesday.

Let me show you the wind gust forecast for Tuesday morning. It is likely that many spots in the higher terrain of the Coast Range see some mighty wind gusts. Possible for an east wind topping in the 40 mph range near the Oregon coast. That wind will stay strong around Portland and surrounding communities until later in the day Tuesday.

Salem south will still deal with wildfire smoke and some breezy elements, but nothing like those closer to the western edge of the Gorge. By Tuesday, the wind should be more harnessed for those of you in central and eastern Oregon. We will have to wait a day for that wind to really settle down west of the Cascades.

What does it take? It will take the temperatures to become a bit more uniform as warmer air returns to the rest of the state. We will eventually cut off that strong east downslope wind.

Below you can see a quick video of the wildfires “blooming” as the wind increases in eastern Washington on Monday afternoon. Wind gusting near 50 mph and creating a dust field on the highway in Washington near Moses Lake. This is all visible from satellite.

Multiple fires have started as of Monday, we will keep track of anything that starts or spread this week. To be honest, I’m not looking forward to next weeks wildfire outlook, for the exception that we will be closer to the rainy season and maybe we will have rain in the forecast.

Small fire breaks out at Mt. Hood Meadows September 7, 2020 (Mt. Hood Meadows)

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