Tense fire watch remains on West End this morning
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Latest National Weather Service messageURGENT - FIRE WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
841 AM PDT THU AUG 16 2012
...CRITICAL COMBINATION OF WIND AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY OVER THE
RIDGES OF THE NORTHWEST OLYMPIC PENINSULA THROUGH THIS MORNING...
.A THERMAL PRESSURE TROUGH WAS NEAR THE COAST THIS
MORNING...LEADING TO BREEZY EAST WIND AND LOW HUMIDITY OVER THE
RIDGES OF THE NORTHWEST OLYMPIC PENINSULA...ESPECIALLY NEAR ELLIS
MOUNTAIN. WIND SPEEDS WILL SUBSIDE THIS AFTERNOON...BUT HOT
TEMPERATURES AND MID-LEVEL HAINES 5 CONDITIONS WILL LEAD TO A
CONDUCIVE BURNING ENVIRONMENT.
NORTH COASTAL LOWLANDS-
841 AM PDT THU AUG 16 2012
...RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON PDT TODAY FOR
WIND AND LOW HUMIDITY OVER THE RIDGES OF FIRE WEATHER ZONE 650
NORTH OF THE SOL DUC BASIN...
A RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON PDT TODAY.
* AFFECTED AREA...FIRE WEATHER ZONE 650. INTENDED MAINLY FOR
RIDGES OF THE NORTHWEST OLYMPIC PENINSULA NORTH OF THE SOL DUC
* WINDS...EAST 10 TO 15 MPH THROUGH THIS MORNING WITH GUSTS OF 20
TO 30 MPH.
* TIMING...CONTINUING UNTIL MID-DAY TODAY.
* RELATIVE HUMIDITY...30 TO 35 PERCENT.
* TEMPERATURES...75-80 DEGREES THIS MORNING.
* IMPACTS...ANY FIRES THAT GET STARTED COULD SPREAD RAPIDLY
UNDER THE COMBINATION OF WIND AND LOW HUMIDITY.
A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF
STRONG WINDS...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL
CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL.
The Weather Service issued a red flag warning for fire danger in the Sol Duc River drainage and other drainages through midday today.
A red flag warning, which indicates extreme fire danger because of low humidity and moderate or high winds, covers much of western Clallam and Jefferson counties south to Grays Harbor County, and is concentrated in those areas between the Olympic Mountain range and the coast, including the Hoh Rain Forest and other western mountain valleys.
Forks, Beaver and Neah Bay
In Clallam County, this includes Forks, Beaver and Neah Bay, as well as mountain valleys.
Not included in the red flag alert are Port Angeles, Sequim and Clallam Bay.
On Wednesday, East Jefferson County was under a red flag warning that extended south of Port Ludlow and Crocker Lake between Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains at elevations below 1,500 feet.
Port Townsend was not included in the red flag alert.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Hood Canal area warning was set to expire at 9 p.m.
Humidity could drop as low as 24 percent, with winds to 14 mph.
Red flag warnings are not common on the Olympic Peninsula, but do occur once ever few years, said Dennis D'Amico, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
The temperature spike, which began Wednesday and is expected to continue until late Friday, is caused by a combination of a high pressure system over British Columbia and offshore winds which draws heat from desert inland areas to the coastal region, the National Weather Service said.
Increased fire patrols
The state Department of Natural Resources station in Forks will increase fire patrols in state forests, and keep a larger than usual crew on duty this weekend, said Bryan Suslick, DNR fire district manager in Forks.
Currently, the DNR Olympic District has sent one of its seven wildland engines to assist at fires in other regions, Suslick said.
Three incident teams were dispatched to Eastern Washington and Oregon, and a fire manager and four camp crews were sent to the Taylor Bridge Fire in Eastern Washington.
Two of the district's seven inmate crews remain in the district, and others have been dispatched to assist elsewhere, he said.
Suslick said the station has normal summer staffing levels, and has contacted nearby districts to establish availability of additional firefighters if needed.
Campfires are allowed in designated, approved fire rings such as in campgrounds, but Suslick urged care be taken with all fire sources.
“Any little thing can start a fire now,” he said.
Forks reached 93 degrees at 2 p.m. Wednesday, while Port Angeles hit 84 and Port Townsend remained at about 77 degrees.
The mercury should go higher today, with Forks in the mid-90s, Port Angeles in the high 80s, and Port Townsend in the low 80s, according to the National Weather Service.
Even Hurricane Ridge, a mile above sea level, is expected to reach 78 degrees today.
The only relief is likely to be at beaches located directly on the Pacific coast, D'Amico said.
Temperatures are expected to drop by a few degrees Friday and again Saturday, and return to normal temperatures by Sunday, he said.
While it is hot, people should try to stay in the shade, stay hydrated, and save activities involving physical exertion for morning and evening hours, said Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.
“It's a common sense thing,” Locke said.
Pets and livestock should be watched for signs of heat stress, said Deputy Tracey Kellas, Clallam County Sheriff's Office's animal control officer.
Animals should be left home and not left in cars, even with windows cracked open, Kellas said.
“If you wouldn't leave your infant in the car, don't leave your pets,” she said.
Pet owners who must bring their dogs in the car should leave an adult in the car with the animal to run air conditioning or otherwise monitor the health of the animal.
Kellas recommended changing animals' drinking water several times each day, to keep the water fresh and cool, to hose down cement or gravel dog runs, provide kiddie pools, move pet cages away from windows, and hose dogs or livestock down as needed.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: August 15. 2012 6:12PM