Wash. weather expected to turn cooler in fire areas

Tuesday, August 29th 2006, 8:53 am
By: News On 6

DAYTON, Wash. (AP) _ After battling Washington wildfires in high temperatures, winds and low humidity, firefighters crossed their fingers that cooler weather would bring much-needed relief.

But the weather change expected Tuesday might be a mixed bag as it could be accompanied by high winds and lightning, which could drive existing fires and spark new ones, fire spokesmen said.

A cold front is expected to drop temperatures 10 to 15 degrees from current highs in the 90s in some areas, National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Fox said.

Evacuation orders remained in effect for some homes and vacation cabins in several areas. Two homes and several dozen small structures burned last in massive fires in southeastern Washington.

The fires have burned across more than 64,171 acres, or about 103 square miles, and were reported 20 percent contained Monday. The fires began with lightning strikes on Aug. 21.

The fires were being fought by about 735 firefighters from at least 10 states, as well as ground crews from British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, said fire information officer Virgil Mink.

In the north-central part of the state, crews were pulled off wildfires at midday Monday when temperature, humidity and wind speed combined to trigger a safety alert, spokeswoman Diane Bedell said.

The fires had blackened more than 139,568 acres, or about 218 square miles of timber and brush. They were started by lightning in July and were about 50 percent contained.