'Heartbreaking destruction': A dozen large wildfires burning in Washington
The 300,000-plus acres that have burned in Washington state over the past 24 hours is more than double the total acreage that burned in the state last year.
Hillary Franz, state commissioner of public lands, told Q13 News Tuesday morning that high winds in eastern Washington have grounded firefighting planes and helicopters - the backbone of the state's wildfire attack strategy.
"The destruction we've seen is just heartbreaking," Franz said.
With 12 major fires burning as of Tuesday morning, Franz said air quality is poor across the state and is expected to remain poor throughout the day and possibly through midweek.
"We are expecting challenging smoke conditions through midweek for sure. We’re hoping for relief after that. This smoke could hang around for a while," she said.
More than 100 homes have burned in wildfires so far this year - including eight overnight in Pierce County, where wildfires are forcing evacuations in Graham, Bonney Lake and Sumner.
Franz noted the "horrific images" coming out of Malden, a small town north of Spokane that was quickly devastated by a firestorm.
RELATED: Washington 'firestorm' destroys 80% of small town as wildfires rage in Pacific Northwest
"The fire near Omak is 60 miles in length. We’re at 0 percent containment," Franz said. "This is a very serious situation. We may not be able to get control until the winds die down."
Franz said it's not just a concern for eastern Washington. Western Washington is also dealing with exploding brush fires, road closures and property damage.
RELATED: Evacuations under way in parts of Pierce County; homes destroyed as wildfires burn across Washington
"The reality is we had over 50 fires start just yesterday alone. The more we can prevent those fires in the first place is key," she said.
All state-owned recreational lands are closed in eastern Washington until Friday. That closure could be extended if conditions don't improve.
Burn bans are in effect in King and Snohomish counties. Gas and charcoal grills are allowed under the burn ban, but recreational fires are not.
Evacuations have also been difficult, Franz said, with power outages and poor cell service in areas consumed by fire.
"Trying to reach people who are very removed from cell service is very difficult. The fires are moving very, very quickly. It makes it difficult to get to them and difficult for them to get out. Many of these places have limited roads to get them out," Franz said.
No injuries have been reported, though Graham's fire chief says some livestock may have perished in Pierce County.
National resources are stretched, as California and Oregon are also in "extreme fire situations," Franz said.