A raging wildfire in central Washington triggered local evacuations and air quality concerns across the state. The fast-moving fire spread rapidly on Tuesday night, growing from 5,000 acres to more than 18,000 acres in Grant County. The fire grew to over 20,000 acres late this past week.
The Highway 243 Fire began near Wanapum Dam in Grant County late Monday, June 3. As the fire continues to grow and spread, it has prompted Level 1, 2 and 3 evacuations in the surrounding area with Level 3 evacuations meaning immediate danger.
“Level 3 Evacuation for Smyrna. Leave Now! LEAVE NOW! POLICE ENROUTE TO NOTIFY RESIDENTS. Level 3 means you are in immediate danger. Load your family and pets into your vehicle, and GO NOW,” the Grant County Sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
Smyrna is about 160 miles east of Seattle.
The Southeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Team issued their final update on the fire on Friday evening as containment reached 85 percent.
Warm and dry weather over the last week helped fuel the fire. While rainfall has been generally close to average in recent weeks in central Washington, this is a dry part of the country in the dry time of year, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Frank Strait.
“There has been a dry air mass in place and it has been windy during the afternoon and evening hours there, so conditions have been favorable for quick spread of wildfires once you get one started,” Strait said.
The local terrain is hilly and rugged, which leads to winds swirling around various features in the terrain. The rugged terrain and shifting winds make firefighting efforts more challenging.