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Wildfire threatens Crystal Mountain ski resort, homes in Washington

Smoke billows over the Jolly Mountain Fire near Roslyn, Washington, on Friday, Sept. 1, in this aerial image.
Great Basin Incident Management Team 4
Smoke billows over the Jolly Mountain Fire near Roslyn, Washington, on Friday, Sept. 1, in this aerial image.

Heavy smoke is blanketing several cities as multiple fires continue to burn in Washington state.

A statewide state of emergency is in place and air quality is being impacted from Seattle to Spokane.

The Jolly Mountain Fire, just outside Cle Elum in central Washington, is threatening thousands of homes and showed no signs of slowing this weekend.

It’s now burning more than 20,000 acres. High temperatures and low humidity mean the fire could continue to grow.

Brian Lawatch, a spokesman for the Jolly Mountain Fire, said a large part of the forest had already been killed by beetles. The forest is also really dry right now.

“There’s a lot of down and dead wood that is ready to burn,” he said.

Nearly 1,000 homes have already been evacuated and another 1,000 could be evacuated at any time.

Crews are working to protect several plants and animals listed under the Endangered Species Act. Bull trout, the northern spotted owl and steelhead are all threatened by the fire.

Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Jolly Mountain blaze.

The agency determined that the fire could constitute a major disaster.

Meanwhile, another fire is threatening the Crystal Mountain ski resort. The Norse Peak fire has reached nearly 19,000 acres and is expected to grow.

The fire has caused evacuations in multiple communities in Pierce and Yakima counties.

Michael Krueger, a spokesman for Norse Peak operations, said they’re in need of more resources. 

"We're trying to get more people in. The resources across the nation are really strapped, and across the Northwest," he said. "We're sharing some resources, but all in all the resources that are available are very minimal."

No injuries or property damage had been caused by the fire as of Tuesday afternoon.

Krueger said winds were pushing the fire westward.

Officials suggest residents check in with the local sheriff’s office if they are unsure whether they should prepare to evacuate.

The blazes are also having an impact on recreation.

Certain parts of the popular Enchantments hiking area have been closed due to wildfires.

The 2,100-acre Jack Creek fire caused the evacuation of about 400 campers and hikers over the weekend.

People are currently unable to enter three of the five Enchantment permit zones, but the Enchantment core zone and the Snow Lake zone remain open.

While permit holders will be disappointed that they can’t access the area, officials say the Jack Creek burn is actually good for the forest.

"Definitely this fire is a very positive thing on the resource and is actually burning in and around other fire scars from previous years," said Carly Reed, information officer for the Jack Creek fire. "It's a very beautiful patchwork mosaic pattern. It does prevent these giant, catastrophic wildfires.” 

Reed said they're monitoring the fire but have no personnel on the ground at this time.

She said people who are unable to use their permit will receive a refund. Currently, the closures have impacted 170 reservations, according to Reed.

Year started with KUOW: 2015