Fires Continue as Temperatures Rise and Wind Picks Up

Aug 10, 2018

Smoky air obstructs the view from the roof of the Spokane Public Radio building.
Credit Jeremy Burnham/SPR

Weather forecasters are expecting temperatures to cool over the weekend, but they are also expecting winds to increase. What does that mean for the wildfires burning in the Northwest? Spokane Public Radio’s Jeremy Burnham has the latest.

Crews fighting the Angel Springs Fire near Davenport and the Silver Lake fire near Cheney have made progress over the past few days. That’s because even though it’s been hot, it hasn’t been windy.

The Angel Springs Fire is now 90 percent contained. Weather remains an issue as temperatures are expected to reach 107 in Davenport today while winds are increasing. Walter Kowalski of the team assigned to the fire says cooler temperatures are in the forecast, and that will help, sort of.

“What we’re going to see tomorrow is around 90 degrees," said Kowalski. "So it’s not actually cool. So anytime you have winds predicted to be 20 to 30 miles per hour, that is a concern.”

Fourteen buildings have been lost in the fire, including four residences.   

The Silver Lake Fire burning near Cheney is 65 percent contained. It is burning 340 acres but has not grown much this week. What is new is that investigators have found what started it. Guy Gifford is a spokesperson for the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

“The cause of the fire is burning material from a vehicle," said Gifford. "So a vehicle was driving by and gave off sparks. That’s what’s credited with the multiple starts we had on Monday.”

Gifford says sparks on the road can be caused when towing chains get loose and drag on the road.

Gifford says something unusual about this fire is that several yellow jackets, hornets and snakes have been found in the area.

About 120 firefighters are currently assigned to the fire.

With the hot, dry, windy weather, the DNR has increased fire danger levels across the region, including an increase to “very high” in Spokane County. Gifford urges extreme caution.

A new fire we are following is burning on the Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes in Idaho. That started early Thursday morning and was burning three acres this morning. Containment is at 85 percent. The bike trail remains closed, and Steve Cuvala of the Idaho Department of Land says the decision of when to reopen it could be made in the coming days.

The cause remains under investigation.

With the fires comes a continuing air quality issue in the area. The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency currently lists the air quality as “Unhealthy for Some Groups.”