PORTLAND, Ore. — Hot temperatures, low humidity, and strong east winds will create conditions for extreme fire danger across western Oregon and southwest Washington on Friday and Saturday.
The east winds were expected to pick up between 40-50mph over the Cascade Mountains overnight Thursday into Friday morning, KGW meteorologist Rod Hill reported.
In the west Columbia River Gorge and much of the Willamette Valley, east winds will blow between 10-25mph Friday afternoon, "with higher spikes in localized areas," Hill said. The strongest wind peaks will blow Friday evening into overnight Saturday.
"Winds will ease a bit Saturday and calm Sunday as temperatures also begin to cool," said Hill.
Smoke from wildfires burning in Washington state and Vancouver, B.C. will likely cause hazy conditions on Friday and Saturday. The NWS shared a weather model on Twitter showing smoke cover much of Oregon within the next 48 hours.
Joined by state fire officials and power company representatives in a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown provided and updated on how authorities are preparing and actively responding to the threat of wildfires throughout Oregon.
“The forecasted wind patterns, hot dry weather, and potential for lightning are making a challenging environment for increased fire in the coming days,” said Brown. “There is also the possibility of public safety power shutoffs to mitigate potential fire risks."
Over Labor Day weekend in 2020, strong winds fueled wildfires that burned more than 1 million acres, destroyed 4,000 homes and killed at least 11 people across western Oregon. The winds this weekend aren't expected to reach the speed and intensity of those seen in 2020, but fires already burning in southwest Oregon could spread quickly as well as any new blazes.
"There a similarities to the 2020 event, but the winds this time won’t be quite as strong and won’t last as long as the devastating east winds of September 2020," said KGW chief meteorologist Matt Zaffino. "That said, the winds don’t have to be that strong to create extreme fire conditions, which we will have Friday into Saturday."
High temperatures will decline down into the 80s on Sunday with calming winds.
Several cities and counties across the region will implement burn bans due to the extreme fire danger.
Along the Oregon coast in Lincoln County, a burn ban will be in effect from 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8 through 6 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 11. The county-wide ban prohibits the burning of wood, charcoal and other flame sources including fires on beaches, campgrounds and in day-use park areas.
In southwest Washington, Clark County has expanded its current burn ban to include recreational fires. The ban, which goes into effect on Friday, Sept. 9, joins with bans imposed by the cities of Camas and Washougal.
The U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday that the Willamette National Forest will be under forest-wide fire restrictions effective immediately as the fire danger level increases to "Extreme"; banning all campfires, charcoal or briquette fires, pellet fires and any other open fires.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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