High winds, temperatures create 'extremely rare' and dangerous fire conditions

Fire crews in Oregon and Washington face challenging conditions as high winds and temperatures hit the Pacific Northwest on Labor Day.

The Lionshead Fire in Oregon grew to 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) by Monday and the Beachie Creek Fire reached 500 acres as fire officials prepare for high winds and dangerous conditions across both wildfires late Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Statesman Journal.

The fires are in the path of winds that could reach up to 75 mph (120 kph) late Monday and into Tuesday, officials said. It’s like a hurricane hitting a wildfire, officials said.

“The fire weather forecasted is extremely rare and occurs only a few times a century,” said Eric Johnson, Deputy Fire Staff for Northwest Oregon Fire Management.

The entire Mount Jefferson Wilderness, the Olallie Lake area and the Opal Creek area were closed to recreation.

Fire officials overseeing the Evans Canyon Fire in southeastern Washington state issued a Red Flag Warning until 8 p.m. Monday due to strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures “that could contribute to the rapid spread of any new or ongoing fires.”

Temperatures are forecast in the mid-80s in the valleys with winds shifting to northeast-east including gusts to 35 mph (56 kph) by midday, according to the Southwest Region of the Department of Natural Resources.

The Yakima Herald reports nearly 1,000 firefighters have fought the Evans Canyon Fire with an impressive array of machines on the ground and in the air — at least 127 engines, 13 bulldozers, two tank-like skidgines, 21 water tenders, six helicopters and two airplanes.

Joining them in the battle through the Yakima River Canyon is one of two specially equipped firefighting trains from BNSF Railway, both based in Washington.

The Evans Canyon fire had burned more than 75,000 acres and was 60 percent contained as of Monday morning.