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In the Pacific Northwest, summer-like vibes give rise to fire-weather fears

Red flag warnings were in effect from the California-Oregon line to the U.S. border with Canada.

The Pacific Northwest, known for its dreary, wet weather much of the year, is seeing summer-like weather as a high pressure system has pumped up temperatures and put first responders on alert for fires.

Multiple high temperature records were broken in the Seattle area Saturday, where the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport reached a high for the date of 77, 16 degrees above normal, and Quillayute Airport on the northern Washington coast reached a record of 83, federal forecasters said.

The high pressure ridge is pushing air west, resulting in dry offshore winds that get warmer as they move down mountain slopes and the air is compressed.

A line of red flag warnings extends along the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, from the California border with Oregon to the U.S. Border with Canada, according to the National Weather Service. The warnings mean fire starts could quickly result in catastrophic wildfires.

In the case of the Pacific Northwest, no major new fires have been attributed to this heat wave by federal fire officials, but 18 major wildfires that have burned more than 370,000 acres were still active, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

The Cedar Creek Fire about 150 miles south of Portland, Oregon, was started by lightning Aug. 1 and was still burning Saturday. It has burned 123,861 acres and was 40% contained amid “critical fire danger,” according to a U.S. Forest Service update. 

“A lot of wildfire smoke is impacting air quality in the region,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Michalski.

Tacoma, Washington, was among the multiple map points in the Pacific Northwest where air quality was deemed “unhealthy” by, a partnership of federal agencies that includes federal forecasters and health officials. 

Unhealthy air was expected for the Puget Sound region all weekend.

At Cheeka Peak, a mountaintop in the very northwestern corner of Washington state, air was “unhealthy for sensitive groups” Saturday, the partnership said.

The weather outlook was much of the same, with the National Weather Service office in Portland, Oregon, predicting warm, dry, and windy conditions, with gusts of 20 miles per hour likely, though Sunday. 

A Pacific trough could bring a chance of drizzle to the Portland area Monday and Tuesday, but summer-like weather could return Wednesday.

Traditionally wet weather from offshore was possible next weekend for the Pacific Northwest, said Michalski, who’s based at the Seattle-area forecast office.