(The Center Square) — As millions of students log into their virtual classes this week, thousands more in Washington and Oregon are evacuating as wildfires rage across the two states.
On Monday, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported that 752 fires are burning across Oregon. The agency reported 600 fires are presumed to be caused by people and another 152 are presumed to be caused by lightning strikes. Approximately 17,069 acres in Oregon have been burned, according to the agency.
On Tuesday, the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center reported that the Pacific Northwest has seen 22 new fires since last week, nine of which were categorized as large and another 14 are not contained.
The agency reported that these new fires have burned roughly 187,435 acres in Washington and 54,634 acres in Oregon with 3,200 deployed firefighters between the two states.
Red flag warnings indicating “extreme fire danger” statewide are in effect in Washington through Thursday and in Oregon through Wednesday.
Washington officials announced that all public parks east of the Cascades are closed until further notice.
The Cold Springs fire south of Omak in Eastern Washington has burned 70,000 acres near the Columbia river.
The small eastern Washington town of Malden saw 80 percent of its buildings destroyed by a wildfire Monday roughly 35 miles south of Spokane, the Whitman County Sheriff reported. No deaths in the 200 person town were reported.
At the request of the National Interagency Fire Center, 233 soldiers from the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion out of Washington's Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been deployed to combat California’s August Complex fire. California now has 1,000 active fires burning statewide.
Oregon communities along a 40-mile stretch of Highway 126 which include Leaburg and Belknap Springs are seeing evacuation alerts of Level 3 “Go Now” and Level 2 “Get Set.”
Elsewhere in Oregon, Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuations were extended by the Lane County Sheriff’s department just east of Springfield. A Level 3 “Go Now order” now includes the local Walterville Elementary School.
The Beachie Creek Fire near Detroit and the Lionshead Fire near Breitenbush have grown to 776 acres and 27,674 acres, respectively. People living in Detroit, Breitenbush, Idanha and other neighboring communities have been ordered by state officials to evacuate on Tuesday morning.
Strong winds, high temperatures, and dry conditions over Labor Day weekend contributed to the growth in wildfires over the past several days, state officials say, but several fires are under investigation.
Fire officials from the Douglas Forest Protective Association dubbed two wildfires that started last week alongside Looking Glass Road as “suspicious.”
The 75,000 acre Evans Canyon Fire that began on August 31 in Yakima County, Washington is 60 percent contained and is under investigation by state officials.
On Monday, the Portland metro area experienced wind of up to 55 miles per hour in some areas that's expected through the next 24 hours. KVW TV’s Chief meteorologist Matt Zaffino said on Tuesday morning that most of the wildfire smoke blown into the area has mostly dissipated.
The National Weather Service’s office in Seattle also reported that eastern winds across the Cascades grew up to 50 miles per hour through Tuesday, blowing wildfire smoke into western parts of the state.
“I'm sick, the amount of new fires today is unreal,” said Washington Department of Natural Resources meteorologist Josh Clark said on Tuesday.
According to the U.S. Air Quality Index, Seattle was ranked unhealthy on Tuesday. Olympia, Wash. was ranked “good” just an hour to the south. To the east, Yakima, Washington was listed as moderate as was Portland. Salem, Ore. was also listed as moderate despite smoky air blocking out sunlight throughout Tuesday.
On Friday, Clark warned Labor Day travelers in the state to take caution, claiming any new fires over the weekend would most likely be caused by people.
In a University of Colorado study, researchers concluded that up to 84 percent of wildfires recorded in the U.S. Forest Service’s Fire Program Analysis-Fire Occurrence Database between 1992 and 2012 were caused by people.
Clark said that strong winds and very low humidities will continue throughout most of the week in Washington where everywhere save for the Pacific coastline will be below 15-20 percent humidity.
Winds of up to 70 miles per hour are possible in the Columbia River Gorge, which Clark says could blow sparks further south into Oregon.
In Oregon, nearly 100,000 residents lost power late Monday night as winds brought down trees, destroying power equipment. Portland General Electric shut off power for 5,000 residents west of Mount Hood to prevent downed power lines from sparking forest fires.
Portland General Electric reported on Tuesday morning that more than 65,000 residents in eight counties — Clackamas, Columbia, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Wasco, Washington, and Yamhill — have seen power outages due to high-wind and fire conditions.
Oregon City, Gervais, Colton, Cascade, Molalla River, and Canby school districts have all canceled online classes in light of related power outages. A fire burning on South Unger Road near Bauer Road in Colton.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Inslee declared states of emergencies due to wildfires in their states back in August.