Air quality improves, but wind and fire threat remains for Clark County


More than 31,000 people lost power Monday into Tuesday as a September wind storm swept through the area

CLARK COUNTY — High winds brought down trees and power lines across Clark County overnight, keeping first responders and utility crews busy.

Just since midnight, dispatch logs for the Clark Regional Emergency Response Agency (CRESA) show well over three dozen calls for brush or bark dust fires, downed power lines, and residential fires.

A downed tree damaged vehicles parked along East 32nd Street near Grand Blvd. in Vancouver. Photo courtesy Tawnya Woodruff Clark
A downed tree damaged vehicles parked along East 32nd Street near Grand Blvd. in Vancouver. Photo courtesy Tawnya Woodruff Clark

Sustained east winds of 14-22 mph raked the area overnight, with gusts up to 38 mph recorded by the National Weather Service in Portland.

A high wind watch remains in effect through 1 p.m. today, with possible gusts up to 55 mph, and winds of 15-30 mph forecasted.

On Facebook, Jessica Schrader posted a dramatic video of a grass fire moving quickly through a field near Mill Plain, just west of PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Crews were able to quickly get the flames knocked down and prevent damage to any structures.

Our field caught fire!!

Posted by Jessica Schrader on Monday, September 7, 2020

Others posted photos of downed trees and power lines, including one tree that fell on some vehicles parked along East 32nd Street at Grand Blvd in Vancouver.

Dameon Pesanti, a media specialist with Clark Public Utilities, said they had a maximum of 31,000 people without power last night, though 18,000 of those were quickly restored. As of 10 a.m., nearly 3,000 people were still without power in Clark County.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue battles a quick-moving grass fire near Mill Plain, east of PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center on Monday afternoon. Photo courtesy Jessica Schrader
Vancouver Fire and Rescue battles a quick-moving grass fire near Mill Plain, east of PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center on Monday afternoon. Photo courtesy Jessica Schrader

The agency had nine first responder crews assessing downed lines and making repairs, along with six construction crews. Two of those had water and fire trailers assigned to assist them in high-risk areas. Six other crews were assisting to remove trees and limbs that had fallen on lines, and three contracted construction crews were also assisting.

This afternoon, the winds should die down, but a red flag warning remains through Wednesday at 8 p.m., due to continued breezy and hot conditions with low humidity, even overnight.

A satellite image shows smoke from wildfires and dust from Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood blowing east by strong winds. Image courtesy National Weather Service
A satellite image shows smoke from wildfires and dust from Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood blowing east by strong winds. Image courtesy National Weather Service

“Conditions will be favorable for rapid fire spread which may threaten life and property,” the warning reads. “Use extra caution with potential ignition sources, especially in grassy areas. Outdoor burning is not recommended.”

After a smoke-filled Monday evening, the air quality in Clark County has improved to “good,” according to the Southwest Clean Air Agency.

Conditions are expected to deteriorate again Tuesday night into Wednesday, as the winds shift, bringing smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California back into the region.

A tree rests against the side of a house in Battle Ground during a wind storm Monday evening. Photo by Chris Brown
A tree rests against the side of a house in Battle Ground during a wind storm Monday evening. Photo by Chris Brown

The Washington Department of Natural Resources said there are currently nine large wildfires burning in the state, with 58 new fires reported overnight. Most of those have been contained, but high winds made fighting some of the fires from the air too dangerous.

This story will be updated…

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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