As of Thursday, August 25, 2016
SUNNYSIDE With hot, dry temperatures and gusty winds in the forecast, the National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for today and tomorrow.
The warning, which covers most of Eastern Washington including the Lower Yakima Valley, means critical weather conditions are occurring or will soon, allowing for rapid wildfire ignition and growth, meteorologists said.
It will be “very dry and windy Thursday and Friday across the Columbia Basin,” the weather service watch announcement said.
The fire watch comes as temperatures soar to daytime highs of around 100 degrees, meteorologists said, noting strong north winds will accompany the high heat.
“Gusty winds will persist through the night and it will remain breezy on Friday,” the announcement said, noting winds should be strongest between 11 p.m. today and 5 a.m. tomorrow.
Sustained wind speeds of 15-25 mph are expected, with gusts of up to 35 mph.
Humidity will also remain low, meteorologists said.
“Any fires that develop with likely spread rapidly,” the announcement said.
The warning has prompted officials with the state Department of Natural Resources to expand a burn ban on lands it manages.
Calling it “… the most dangerous fire weather of the year,” Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark yesterday expanded the statewide burn ban through Sept. 30.
It prohibits all campfires on agency-protected lands.
“After a relatively mild summer, we are entering a period of critical fire weather on both sides of the Cascades,” Goldmark said. “The greatest fire danger right now comes from carelessness. It’s essential that people understand the risks involved and do not spark any fires.”
The burn ban applies to state forests, state parks and forestlands protected by Department of Natural Resource crews.
The ban does not include federally-managed lands such as forests, parks, wildlife refuges or other areas.
The Yakima Valley has already seen a number of wildfires this summer, including the 160,000-acre Range 12 fire north of Sunnyside.
The blaze began on Yakima Training Center lands, then spread to Benton County.