SPOKANE, Wash. - Calmer winds and cooler temperatures were allowing firefighters to go on the offensive Monday against a destructive wildfire that has charred hundreds of square miles of terrain in Washington state.
The forecast calls for more favorable conditions: cooler temperatures, higher relative humidity and lighter winds for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, said KING5 Chief Meteorologist Jeff Renner.
A system moving in later Tuesday raises the potential for rain showers Tuesday afternoon and evening.
The potential for showers will increase Wednesday. Thundershowers will also be a possibility, especially during the afternoon and evening hours, said Renner. While thunderstorms pose a threat of lightning, which could ignite new fires, computer guidance suggests these thunderstorms are likely to produce rain in or near the fire zones, possibly in excess of an inch.
Renner adds that thundershowers can also produce hail and locally gusty winds. The potential for showers will diminish Thursday, with a return to hotter, drier weather by the weekend.
The fire has created smoky conditions and reduced air quality in much of eastern Washington and northern Idaho.
The Carlton Complex of fires in north-central Washington had burned about 379 square miles, fire spokesman Andrew Sanbri said Monday.
There is optimism in the air, but we don't want to give the impression that all is good, Sanbri said. Things are improving.
The fire was just 2 percent contained Monday.
Firefighters planned to aggressively protect some houses near Libby Creek on Monday, by keeping the flames from jumping the waterway, Sanbri said. Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers estimates that 150 homes have been destroyed already, but suspects that number could be higher. The fire is being blamed for one death.
Firefighters on Monday had also planned to burn some fuel on the north side of the fire to help build a fire line, but that operation was canceled, fire spokesman Don Carpenter said.
Firefighters were also hampered by the loss of electricity in the area, thanks to downed power lines and poles, which hurt communications. There was no estimate on when utilities would be restored.
Many towns in the scenic Methow Valley remain without power and have limited landline and cellphone service. Okanogan County Public Utility District officials told KREM that fully restoring power to the area could take weeks.
Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state's Military Department, said 100 National Guard troops were on standby, and up to 1,000 more in Yakima could receive additional fire training. Active-duty military could be called in as well, Inslee said.