2018 Washington wildfires

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2018 Washington wildfires
Little Camas Fire crew.jpg
Fire crew at the Little Camas Fire, July 9
Date(s)June–October 2018
Statewide state of emergency: July 31, 2018[1]
← 2017
2019 →

The 2018 Washington wildfire season officially began June 1, 2018. A statewide state of emergency was declared by the Washington State Governor on July 31.[1]

Training and preparedness[edit]

State level planning for the fire season began at least as early as January, 2018.[2]

A regional annual meeting was held at Yakima in March to prepare for fighting wildfires.[3] Summer fire rules went into effect on state-owned lands on April 15.[4]

Four hundred firefighters from 36 fire districts and 18 agencies trained to fight forest fires in the Cascade Mountains above Yakima in May.[5]

A 20-year Washington Wildland Fire Protection Strategic Plan under development during the first half of the year was to be released by the Department of Natural Resources to the public in July, 2018.[6]

In June, three firefighting helicopters were staged in Western Washington by the Department of Natural Resources for the first time, prompted by a low 2017 fire season west of the Cascades followed by a dry month of May 2018 causing an abundance of dry fuel, and other weather considerations.[7][8]

Season prediction[edit]

National Interagency Fire Center fire outlook for August 2018

The season predictions issued in May cited drier than average weather conditions and low snow pack in Oregon, but in Washington conditions appeared to be near normal.[9] The water year began October 1, 2017, and by May 1, indicated normal precipitation in the state, but according to National Interagency Fire Center, models that also include Pacific-scale El Niño–Southern Oscillation effects showed high chance of below-normal precipitation and higher-than-normal temperatures through July; these factors led to a prediction of above-normal wildfire risk for the entirety of Eastern Washington through August 2018.[10] Climate scientists said in July that the Palmer Drought Severity Index showed Western Washington to be significantly drier than normal, adding to fire risk there.[11]

Fires and smoke[edit]

Washington on August 1, 2018. Smoke from Cougar Creek Fire and Crescent Mountain Fire on the east slope of the Cascades is prominent. Smoke at the southeast corner of the state is coming from Northern California.
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

What may have been the first significant fire of the year occurred on April 24, when 20 acres burned at Woodland, Washington in Clark County, extinguished via aerial attack.[12]

On May 22, a controlled burn initiated by a local resident went wild and burned 300 acres near the Yakima Training Center. An Army helicopter crew was credited with saving homes near Selah by dumping water.[13]

The Soap Lake Fire in early June grew to 2,000 acres (810 ha) and triggered level 3 evacuations in Grant County.[14]

The Ryegrass Coulee Fire on July 9–10 burned 1,600 acres, closed 20 miles of Interstate 90 in both directions for most of a day, and forced the complete evacuation of Vantage, Washington. It was the first of the state's fire season to trigger a level three evacuation or a road closure. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released funds, saying that "the fire threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster".[15][16][17]

The Little Camas Fire at 47°25′26″N 120°33′40″W / 47.424°N 120.561°W / 47.424; -120.561 (Little Camas Fire), in the Cascades south of Leavenworth, Washington, started on July 5 and reached over 300 acres. It caused the evacuation of a bible camp. Over 440 firefighters and three helicopters were sent to contain it.[18][19]

The Vulcan Mountain Fire at Vulcan Mountain in Ferry County grew to over 20 acres around July 13, before being contained.[20][21]

Smoke conditions in mid July were judged as good, in contrast to the 2017 season which had Seattle blanketed in smoke and ash around the same time due to fires in British Columbia, Eastern Washington and Oregon.[11]

The Rocky Reach Fire at 47°32′10″N 120°17′31″W / 47.536°N 120.292°W / 47.536; -120.292 (Rocky Reach Fire), near Wenatchee, started on Friday, July 13 and reached over 3,386 acres (1,370 ha) before being contained.[22]

The Boylston Fire started on July 19 again shut down I-90 east of Ellensburg for 24 hours. It burned 80,000 acres, mostly on the Yakima Training Center, caused level three "leave now" evacuations, and destroyed five buildings while being fought by three fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters. Military personnel and equipment to fight the fire were sent from Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the Puget Sound Area.[23][24][25] The smoke caused "unhealthy" air conditions in Spokane on July 20.[26]

The Upriver Beacon Fire in Spokane County, on the Spokane city/county border at 47°41′38″N 117°18′54″W / 47.694°N 117.315°W / 47.694; -117.315 (Upriver Beacon Fire),[27] caused the evacuation of 800 homes and evacuation warnings for thousands more on July 18. It burned 120 acres (49 ha) before being contained. Nearly all local fire agencies including cities of Spokane, Spokane Valley and Spokane County, and out-of-area fire aircraft, responded.[28]

The Cougar Creek Fire at 47°40′52″N 120°13′01″W / 47.681°N 120.217°W / 47.681; -120.217 (Cougar Creek Fire) near Entiat started on July 28 as the result of lightning.[29] Forest recreation users were told to leave.[30]

Smoke from fires in Siberia was visible over southern British Columbia in late July and was assessed to be a possible health impact to Washington residents.[31] On July 29, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency stated the Puget Sound region would experience "moderate air quality at times with some upper level smoke making for pretty sunsets. This smoke comes from distant fires, mostly originating from Siberia."[32] On July 30, University of Washington meteorology professor Cliff Mass noted the progressively more smoky situation in Seattle from Siberian wildfires, and said a "smoke front" from California's Carr Fire would arrive before sunset.[33]

Parts of Goat Rocks Wilderness were closed for the month of September in response to the Miriam Fire at 46°36′58″N 121°20′10″W / 46.616°N 121.336°W / 46.616; -121.336 (Miriam Fire), reported July 30 as the result of lightning.[34] 400 campers were evacuated.[35]

The Milepost 90 Fire in the Columbia Gorge near Wishram, Washington started on July 31 and reached over 11,000 acres (4,500 ha) by August 1. Level 2 and level 3 evacuation orders were issued near Wishram.[36] Almost 20 miles of State Route 14 were closed in both directions.[37] On August 3, it burned 14,500 acres (5,900 ha) and 85% contained.[38]

Crescent Mountain and Gilbert Fires at 48°27′04″N 120°34′44″W / 48.451°N 120.579°W / 48.451; -120.579 (Crescent Mountain Fire) near Twisp began with lightning on July 29 and grew quickly to over 100 acres (40 ha) by August 1, driven by evening downslope wind. Four helicopters and other equipment were assigned and smokejumpers sent in to the rough terrain. Hikers and campers were told to leave.[39] Crescent Mountain Fire increased to 7,671 acres (3,104 ha) by August 5.[40] It was controlled as of October 22 2018 and burned a total 52,000 acres.[41]

The Maple Fire at 47°34′52″N 123°07′52″W / 47.581°N 123.131°W / 47.581; -123.131 (Maple Fire) near the Hamma Hamma River on the Olympic Peninsula sent smoke towards Seattle on August 7.[42][43]


An RC-26 like this one was deployed to provide infrared imagery of fires in the Northwest. Aircraft used for 2005 New Orleans floods pictured.

An infrared thermography-capable RC-26 surveillance aircraft and support crew from Washington Air National Guard were deployed in support of the National Interagency Fire Center for the third year in a row.[44]

The Governor's July 31 state of emergency declaration allowed the Washington National Guard to be deployed; two Blackhawk helicopters at Fairchild Air Force Base were quickly allocated to firefighting.[45]


  1. ^ a b Washington governor declares wildfire state of emergency – Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed an emergency proclamation Tuesday for all 39 counties for the threat of wildfire., Associated Press, July 31, 2018 – via KGW
  2. ^ Hilary Franz (February 3, 2018), "Getting an early jump on fire season", Ear to the Ground (blog), Washington State Department of Natural Resources
  3. ^ Emily Schwing (March 20, 2018), Spring Is In The Air, And With It The 2018 Northwest Wildfire Season, Northwest Public Broadcasting
  4. ^ Washington's Summer Fire Rules Officially Begin Sunday, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, April 13, 2018
  5. ^ by Khalyn King (May 16, 2018), Firefighter students prepare for upcoming wildfire season in Central Washington, Yakima: KIMA-TV
  6. ^ Jackson Hogan (May 4, 2018), "DNR scientist warns of massive Western Washington fire in future", The Daily News, Longview, Washington
  7. ^ There was a 'categorical shift' in Western Washington wildfire season, KIRO radio / MyNorthwest.com, June 6, 2018
  8. ^ Aaron Kunkler (June 14, 2018), "Western Washington Could See More Wildfires This Year – Lots of grass and warmer weather could make for worsening fire seasons.", Seattle Weekly
  9. ^ Emily Schwing (March 21, 2018), Forecasters Say Oregon's Wildfire Season Could Be Record-Setting, Northwest News Network – via Oregon Public Broadcasting
  10. ^ Climate and Significant Fire Potential Outlook (Video), Northwest Interagency Coordination Center/National Interagency Fire Center, May 1, 2018
  11. ^ a b "Far Less Smoke over the Northwest Than Last Year". Cliff Mass weather blog. July 12, 2018.
  12. ^ Haley Rush (April 24, 2018), Washington wildfire sparks on warmest day of the year so far, KPTV
  13. ^ Donald W. Meyers (May 23, 2018), "Brush fire near Selah deemed accidental as 14 vehicles destroyed", Yakima Herald
  14. ^ Ashley, Morgan (June 12, 2018). "Evacuation orders in place for residents near Soap Lake for growing fire". NBC 23 News. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
  15. ^ Jonathan Glover (July 10, 2018), "I-90 reopened in both directions; Vantage still evacuated after wildfire near Columbia River burns brush and grass", Spokesman-Review, Spokane
  16. ^ Christine Clarridge (July 10, 2018), "Eastern Washington brush fire prompts federal help, warns of heavy wildfire season", The Seattle Times, updated July 11
  17. ^ FEMA Provides Federal Funds to Help Fight the Ryegrass Coulee Fire (press release), Federal Emergency Management Agency, July 10, 2018, Press release NR-18-10
  18. ^ "Little Camas Fire", InciWeb, US Forest Service, retrieved July 10, 2018
  19. ^ Elena Gardner (July 9, 2018), Over 400 firefighters working to contain Little Camas Fire, Spokane: KXLY
  20. ^ Elena Gardner (July 13, 2018), Vulcan Mountain Fire burning 20 acres in Ferry County, Spokane: KXLY
  21. ^ Vulcan mountain fire update, Ferry County Sheriff's Office, July 13, 2018 – via Facebook
  22. ^ Rocky Reach Fire, US Forest Service InciWeb, accessed 2018-07-23
  23. ^ KARL HOLAPPA, "Boylston Fire now estimated at 80,000 acres.", Daily Record, Ellensburg
  24. ^ "Wildfire closes I-90 east of Ellensburg", The Seattle Times, July 20, 2018
  25. ^ Eastbound I-90 near Kittitas reopens nearly 24 hours after closure due to brush fire, KCPQ TV News, July 19, 2018
  26. ^ "Wildfire burning 70,000 acres closes I-90 near Vantage; Spokane wakes up to smoky skies", Spokesman-Review, Spokane, July 20, 2018
  27. ^ Upriver Beacon Fire, US Forest Service InciWeb, accessed 2018-07-24
  28. ^ "Nearly 800 homes evacuated as wildfire engulfs home north of Upriver Drive", Spokesman-Review, Spokane, July 18, 2018
  29. ^ "Cougar Creek Fire", InciWeb, US Forest Service, retrieved August 1, 2018
  30. ^ Mikaila Wilkerson (July 29, 2018), "Cougar Creek Fire reported 20 miles northwest of Entiat", The Wenatchee World
  31. ^ Smoke to south, smoke to the north, smoke to the east and then some ozone, Washington smoke blog, July 25, 2018 (Washington Ecology with county, state, and Federal agencies and Indian tribes)
  32. ^ Air Quality Forecast Discussion for July 29–Aug 3, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, July 29, 2018, archived from the original on July 29, 2018, retrieved July 29, 2018
  33. ^ Cliff Mass (July 30, 2018), "Smoke Reaches Western Washington", Cliff Mass weather blog
  34. ^ "Miriam Fire", InciWeb, US Forest Service, retrieved August 1, 2018
  35. ^ The Latest: about 400 campers evacuate Washington wildfire, Associated Press, August 1, 2018 – via Fox News
  36. ^ Shane Dixon Kavanaugh (August 1, 2018), "Columbia River Gorge fire grows to 11,000 acres overnight, prompts evacuations", The Oregonian
  37. ^ "Traffic alerts - SR 14 Both Directions", Official website, Washington State Department of Transportation, retrieved August 1, 2018
  38. ^ 14,500-acre Milepost 90 Fire is now 85 percent contained, KATU-TV, August 3, 2018
  39. ^ Ann McCreary (August 1, 2018), "Crescent and Gilbert fires expected to merge", Methow Valley News
  40. ^ "Crescent Mountain Fire", InciWeb, US Forest Service, retrieved August 5, 2018
  41. ^ "Crescent Mountain Fire", InciWeb, US Forest Service, retrieved March 20, 2019
  42. ^ WA keeps accumulating smoke through Thursday Washington Smoke Blog, August 7, 2018 (Department of Ecology et al.)
  43. ^ Washington State DNR [@waDNR_fire] (August 6, 2018). "#WaWILDFIRE UPDATE - #MapleFire outside #HammaHamma @olympicforest is 70 acres with 5% containment" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  44. ^ Tom Banse (July 31, 2018), Military Reconnaissance Plane Enlisted In Northwest Wildfire Fight, northwest Public Broadcasting
  45. ^ Governor declares state of emergency, National Guard utilized for Washington wildfires, Spokane: KHQ-TV, July 31, 2018

External links[edit]