Gentler winds are allowing firefighters to make significant process Sunday in battling the numerous wildfires across Washington, but heavy smoke is making it difficult for those crews to receive support from the air.
There were 16 large wildfires raging in Washington as of Sunday morning from the Blue Mountains to the North Cascades, consuming more than 630,000 acres, Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said.
More than 200 homes have been destroyed and more than 12,000 homes and thousands of other structures are still threatened, officials said.
“The good news is that crews have made significant progress in improving their fire lines and the amount of containment and structure protection,” Goldmark said Sunday. “The bad news is that the smoke is restricting visibility to a quarter of a mile this morning. There are very limited air operations possible because of that and air operations are a vital part of a suppression strategy.”
Meanwhile, in California, planes and helicopters were making major liquid drops on a wildfire that broke out Sunday afternoon near a ski resort in the San Bernardino Mountains, bringing the first gains against the blaze.
The U.S. Forest Service said the fire near Snow Summit Ski Resort south of Big Bear Lake has forced evacuation orders for about 400 homes, many of them cabins and vacation houses. It has grown to 85 acres but is 10 percent contained.
Water cannons from the ski resort usually used for making snow are being pointed toward the fire.
Earlier Sunday, firefighters were gaining ground against a wildfire that led to the evacuation of thousands of people and destroyed a lodge in Kings Canyon National Park.
Despite relentlessly high temperatures, fire crews increased the blaze’s containment to 7 percent, the U.S. Forest Service said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.