Washington wildfire smoke spreads north

Smokey skies over the Okanagan on Monday.

SOUTH OKANAGAN - Smoke caused by Washington wildfires has been steadily creeping up the South Okanagan valley since Monday afternoon. There has been little smoke around the Penticton area from the Apex and Jura Mountain fires that have been burning for more than a week, so just how big are these fires in Washington that they’re causing smoky skies over a hundred kilometres away?

The fire closest to the Canadian border is located roughly 11 kilometres from Tonasket, the northernmost Washington town, and is roughly 55 kilometres from the Osoyoos border. It’s about 688 hectares in size and just started burning yesterday.

There are several other fires of varying sizes burning south of the border, the biggest being the Carlton Complex, estimated to be 240,000-250,000 hectares in size. That’s almost equal to 293 Apex fires.

250,000 hectares translates to 1011.71 square kilometres — or the size of three Okanagan Lakes. Imagine three lakes the size of Okanagan Lake side by side, and on fire. No wonder we’re seeing smoke.

That fire, located North of Chelan and West of Okanogan, Washington, has 2,110 firefighters working to put out the flames. The fire’s been burning since July 14 and only 16 per cent is contained, said Sharon Kyhl, a fire information officer in Washington.

She said there are six major incident management teams working on the fires across the state, and firefighters have come west from across the country to help put out the flames.

B.C. Wildfire sent air tankers down to Washington Monday evening to help with the fires that are 15-20 kilometres south of the Osoyoos border, however BCWildfire is unsure where exactly the fires are. The Washington fires have not spread north into the South Okanagan valley, according to B.C. Wildfire, however, they are monitoring the area. For now, we only need to deal with the smoke, so be prepared when you go outdoors and stay inside if you have any health issues, such as asthma.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Meaghan Archer at marcher@infotelnews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.


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