Thick smoke blanketed much of the Pacific Northwest on Monday as numerous wildfires in Canada, Washington and Oregon continued to burn, killing at least one person, destroying scores of buildings and threatening dozens more.
At least six large fires were burning in Washington State, including the Gray Fire, which was discovered around noon on Friday and was only 10 percent contained as of Monday morning, and the Oregon Road fire, which had burned more than 10,000 acres and was also only 10 percent contained, according to a state fire tracking agency. In Oregon, another four large fires were burning, three of which were just outside of Eugene.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources said at least one person had died in the Gray fire and another death in connection with the Oregon Road fire was under investigation, but that the cause had not been determined. At least 265 structures were destroyed by the Gray and Oregon Road fires.
As the sun rose in Seattle, the Space Needle’s web camera captured a city under a gray, purplish haze. The Air Quality Index, which measures the density of major pollutants in the air, reached 178 as an air quality alert remained in place through Monday afternoon. The air in Issaquah, about 17 miles east of Seattle, registered 182. An index number above 200 is considered “very unhealthy.”
But by Monday afternoon, air quality was beginning to improve thanks to an onshore flow that was pushing smoke out of the area. The Air Quality Index measured 95, a moderate risk level, and the quality was expected to continue to improve through the evening and into tomorrow morning, Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said.
Ms. Kristell said the smoky air was the result of an accumulation of multiple fires in the area, including the Gray, the Oregon Road and the Sourdough fire, another fire about 125 miles northeast of Seattle.
“We’ve gotten a little bit of everybody’s smoke,” she said.
Much of it has come from across the Canadian border in British Columbia, where 35,000 people were under evacuation alerts and 27,000 people were under evacuation orders as the province’s premier, David Eby, declared a state of emergency and restricted travel. Parts of southern British Columbia face “very high” health risks because of poor air quality.
On the border, the Crater Creek fire had burned through around 44,000 acres of mostly dense forest as of Sunday, according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service, and 8,100 acres in Washington. The fire was likely caused by lightning on July 22.
In the Shuswap Lake region northeast of Vancouver, a popular vacation destination, fast-moving fires burned down entire blocks in multiple communities. There were no immediate reports of deaths or missing persons. The British Columbia Wildfire Service described the Bush Creek East wildfire, which now encompasses the Adams Lake fire, as “a dynamic situation” on social media.
At a news conference on Monday, Jerrad Schroeder, deputy chief of the provincial wildfire service’s center for the region, said the fires in the Central Okanagan area remained out of control but firefighters “continue to make every excellent progress.”
Mr. Schroeder said heavy smoke had limited firefighters’ ability to map the fires, and that their priority on Monday was structural protection of residences and critical infrastructure. Local officials said they were working to map the area’s hazards and damages so that residents could return home.
At least 50 structures, primarily homes, were lost in Kelowna, in southern British Columbia, Mr. Elby, the province’s premier, said at a news conference on Monday. He also noted that there were reports of tampering with firefighting equipment and even some thefts.
“This is a very dangerous and fluid situation,” he said, adding that tourists should still avoid the highly impacted areas. “The last thing they need is disaster tourists.”