Air quality worsens as 94 fires burn across Western US, Kay weakens

Sep 11, 2022, 12:56 PM
Tropical Storm Kay (Photo courtesy of David Swanson, Reuters)...
Tropical Storm Kay (Photo courtesy of David Swanson, Reuters)
(Photo courtesy of David Swanson, Reuters)

(CNN) — Air quality alerts are in place across much of Washington, Oregon and Idaho as smoke from ongoing fires is leading to poor air quality in the aftermath of a record-breaking heat wave.

There are currently 94 large, active fires burning across eight states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center: Idaho (34), Montana (23), Washington (12), California (11), Oregon (11), Utah (1), Wyoming (1) and Colorado (1).

Red flag warnings are in place across portions of the Washington Cascades through 7 p.m. local time today, where relative humidity is as low as 20%, according to the National Weather Service. The dry air and warm temperatures are contributing to active fire behavior across the region.

There is some hope for firefighters, however: Winds are expected to be much lower on Sunday across the region compared to the last two days, and an increase in dew points may help them make some progress today into early next week, according to CNN meteorologists.

California firefighters battling the destructive flames also got help from a post-tropical cyclone’s lingering showers Saturday.

In the Golden State, residents saw both record rainfall and record heat in the same week, as what used to be Tropical Storm Kay made a rare close pass to California following a prolonged heat wave.

San Diego received 0.61 inches of rain Friday, breaking a previous daily rainfall record of 0.09 inches set in 1976. More than 5 inches of rain was recorded over two days in San Diego County’s Mount Laguna, according to the National Weather Service.

“Believe it or not, rainfall is abnormal for this time of year,” weather service officials in Los Angeles said, adding rainfall records were broken in downtown Los Angeles, Burbank, Los Angeles International Airport and Long Beach Airport.

Kay has weakened from its earlier tropical storm strength, following its landfall in Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane Thursday, according to CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

Thanks to ample moisture, some rainfall and cooler temperatures, crews battling the Fairview Fire managed to shore up containment of the 28,307-acre blaze to 43%. The raging fire, which broke out Monday, has killed two civilians and injured a third, forced thousands to evacuate, and destroyed 30 buildings.

“With the recent onset of rain, the drought-stricken area has not only received much-needed precipitation, but has also aided firefighters by slowing the spread of the Fairview Fire,” Cal Fire said Friday.

On Saturday, three people were injured when a helicopter assigned to the Fairview Fire crashed in a residential backyard while attempting to land at a local airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

A pilot and two fire personnel who were aboard the helicopter were taken to an area trauma center for further evaluation, Cal Fire said.

To the north, cooler temperatures were also welcome relief for crews battling the Mosquito Fire, which had consumed 37,326 acres as of Saturday night as it burned in both El Dorado and Placer counties. Heavy winds have continued the fire’s spread to the north and northeast, fire officials said.

Meanwhile, wildfires were also swallowing large areas of dry vegetation in the Pacific Northwest, where firefighters were contending with hotter, dryer conditions.

The Cedar Creek Fire in Oregon, which started August 1, has so far burned 85,926 acresContainment levels dropped from 12% to zero, a fire public information officer told CNN Sunday morning. Authorities say the “extreme fire behavior” over the last several days has resulted in “significant” growth. About 2,230 homes and 443 structures “remain under threat,” according to InciWeb.

Hot, dry and unstable conditions could also increase fire behavior for Idaho’s Moose Fire, which has currently burned 125,993 acres and is 37% contained, fire officials said.

Summer temperatures make the record books

As the West has been experiencing record-breaking heat, the nation as a whole is dealing with an especially hot summer.

The average temperature in August across the US was 74.6 degrees — 2.5 degrees above average — making it the eighth-warmest August on record. The month was also marked by several extreme rainfall events, resulting in historic flooding, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Overall, it was also the third-hottest meteorological summer on record for the US, according to NOAA.

California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington each ranked warmest on record for August nighttime temperatures.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Texas all saw their second-warmest summer on record.

September has proved no different.

Temperature records were broken across the West over the past week, including in Sacramento, which saw an all-time high of 116 degrees Tuesday.

“This will be essentially the worst September heat wave on record, certainly in Northern California and arguably for the state overall,” UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said Tuesday in a Twitter Spaces discussion. “By some metrics, it might be one of the worst heat waves on record, period, in any month, given its duration and its extreme magnitude.”

The climate crisis is increasing how large heat domes can get, and has increased the frequency, the intensity and duration of heat waves, he said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

One person is dead following a three vehicle crash in Sanpete County around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Ja...
Waverly Golden

Three vehicle crash in Sanpete County leaves one dead

One person is dead following a three vehicle crash in Sanpete County around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 28.
1 day ago
Tyre Nichols Protests...
Nouran Salahieh, Jamiel Lynch, Chuck Johnston, Shawn Nottingham, Andy Rose and Phil Gast, CNN

More protests today after release of video depicting the deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols

Protesters across the US heldmarches & rallies on Saturday, one day after the release of video showing the police beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.
1 day ago
Gov. Spencer Cox covered a broad range of issues Thursday night at the State of the State Address. ...
Chandler Holt

Governor Spencer Cox signs transgender bill, releases statement

Gov. Spencer Cox released a statement on the transgender bill, that would ban transgender-related surgeries and puberty blockers for minors, on Saturday.
1 day ago
Temperatures dropping weather worsens...
Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologist

‘Dangerous’ arctic air returns this weekend after a month-long hiatus

What has been a mild start to 2023 will come to a halt this weekend as winter makes a roaring comeback across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest.
1 day ago
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, talks about SB117, which he is sponsoring, during a Senate Judicia...
Devin Oldroyd

Two Republicans voted against bill banning transgender-related surgery, here’s why

The Utah Senate has approved a bill banning transgender-related surgery and puberty blockers for minors. A total of two Republicans voted against it.
2 days ago
Rabbi Avremi Zippel talks to the crowd during halftime of a Jazz-Portland Trail Blazers game at Viv...
Mark Jones

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Area rabbi shares his thoughts

Rabbi Avremi Zippel joined Inside Sources Friday to discuss International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Air quality worsens as 94 fires burn across Western US, Kay weakens