Wildfires devour tens of thousands of acres in WA

Published On: Sep 11 2012 07:21:25 AM PDT   Updated On: Sep 11 2012 07:57:07 AM PDT
Grand Coulee Dam area brush fire
WASHINGTON -

Four wildfires, triggered by lightning strikes over the weekend, have burned tens of thousands of acres in Washington within the last 48 hours.

Two of the fires are burning near Grand Coulee. Late Monday night and into Tuesday morning, the Leahy Junction Fire grew immensely. So far, it has burned approximately 20,000 acres of brush. Winds nearing 35 mph on Monday night just fanned the intense flames.

The other, the Barker Canyon fire, has burned 9,000 acres of brush. As of Monday night, reports were that it had burned 14,000 acres, but as some of the smoke in the area lifted, crews were able to get a more accurate estimate of land burned.

A spokeswoman from Grant County said she did not have a containment number as of Tuesday morning.

Evacuations were lowered to a warning or lifted completely for residents in Grand Coulee Monday night. No major injuries have been reported and no homes have been lost. However, one outbuilding was lost in the Leahy Junction fire.

The Apache Pass wildfire near Odessa in Lincoln County also grew overnight. It went from an estimated 2,000 acres on Monday night to 18,000 acres early Tuesday morning. No homes have been lost so far, but a spokesperson for the fire from Lincoln County said a few outbuildings have been lost. About a dozen people evacuated from outlying areas on Monday night. As of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Apache Pass fire is 15-percent contained.

A fire burning just south of Wenatchee has burned about 6,000 acres of land. About 180 homes have been evacuated.

Residents in Eastern Washington could smell heavy smoke in the area Tuesday morning, due to a combination of these fires. As of 4 a.m., air quality in Spokane registered at 118. That means it is "unhealthy for sensitive groups" and older adults, children or people with heart and lung disease should not exert themselves outdoors. The smoke may hurt your eyes and irritate your respiratory system.