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Wildfires creating dangerous air quality conditions in Eastern Washington

Two wildfires are creating major air quality concerns for thousands of residents in Eastern Washington. (Photo: KOMO News)

NEAR CLE ELUM, Wash. - Two wildfires are creating major air quality concerns for thousands of residents in Eastern Washington.

On Monday, the Kittitas County Public Health Department declared dangerous air quality conditions in Cle Elum and unhealthy air quality conditions in Ellensburg because of the Jolly Mountain and Norse Peak fires.

The Jolly Mountain Fire cast a heavy blanket of smoke over Ronald, Roslyn and surrounding towns, forcing families to leave quickly.

Peggy Hemley was evacuated under level 3—the most critical—but she came back to her house to grab some last minute valuables and fire proof her property.

“The smoke now is more intense now that I’ve ever seen it,” Hemley said. “Being over here now and knowing it’s a definite, definite threat and this might be the last time I will be leaving my home, you know you say your goodbyes and its just stuff.”

More than 20,000 acres have been scorched since lightning sparked the fire August 11.

That day, Tony Breznikar said he saw the lightning and called 911 while manning the Red Top Lookout.

He’s lived here for decades and had family evacuated.

“It lasted about 20 minutes and heard 10 thunderclaps,” Breznikar said. “It kind of touches my heart thinking of people losing their homes.”

Fire fighters are working around the clock building fire lines around neighborhoods.

However, they are battling an unpredictable fire with changing winds and no break in the weather for days.

“I pray for everybody and thank you to all the fire men who are taking care of it,” neighbor Greg Ford said.

“Our main concern is we want it to rain and we want those fire fighters to stay safe,” Hemley said.

Officials said nearly 700 fire fighters have eyes on the fire 24/7.

Help has arrived from all over the state including Shoreline, Everett, Seattle, Snohomish County, Spokane, just to name a few.

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