GRAHAM, Wash. -- Eight homes were destroyed in Graham Monday night as multiple brush fires exploded around the South Sound amid a rare September wind storm that has knocked out power to tens of thousands.
Luckily there have been no reports of injuries.
In Graham, firefighters were busy Monday evening responding to several brush fires in the area in windy conditions that had knocked over multiple power lines. As they headed to one particular brush fire at 240th Street and Bath Road, the fire exploded in size, according to Assistant Fire Chief Steve Richards with Graham Fire.
"The winds moved in pretty heavy knocking trees down into the power lines, the power lines were falling to the ground starting multiple brush fires," Richards said. "The first crews pulled up and went defensive on the first few structures. The wind was relentless and they had to pull out. And the fire kept on pushing through the power lines."
Dispatchers then received multiple 911 calls from residents stuck in houses "so we were sending multiple units to multiple locations," Richards said.
The fire destroyed at least eight homes and caused 100 people to be evacuated, Richards said. Another dozen homes were threatened.
"The first on crews had a lot going on and unfortunately we could not get ahead of the curve (fighting the fire) due to the heavy wind," he said.
Many of those who fled the scene were at a Safeway in Graham. Cecil Bellamy says his daughter came to his house at midnight to make sure he got out.
"I was in bed when they woke me up!" he said. "I’d just gotten to sleep."
Firefighters say battling the blaze has been extra challenging due to total blackout conditions and heavy smoke in the area.
Other large brush fires were burning in Sumner and Bonney Lake. One fire dubbed the "Meyers Road" Fire is burning a hillside along SR 410.
The eastbound lanes of SR 410 were closed as firefighters battled this large blaze.
The Winco in Sumner has also been evacuated as a precaution as fire burns the hillside above.
In Enumclaw, another fire was burning Tuesday morning about 5 miles outside of town along SR 410 near milepost 32. Enumclaw Fire officials say it was about 6-10 acres in size but growing. Additional firefighters were heading to the scene but so far no homes were threatened.
The Sumner fire wa near but separate from another large brush fire that broke out Monday evening along SR-167 near the SR 410 interchange, according to WSP. Video from the scene showed flames burning on both sides of the highway and in the median:
Trooper Ryan Burke says power lines were down along SR 410 as the fire continued to smolder into the night.
Several other smaller brush fires are keeping firefighters busy across Western Washington.
In addition to the fires, tens of thousands are without power as strong east winds knocked over trees and power lines while flooding the region with thick smoke from several new large wildfires that began burning in Eastern Washington on Sunday night and Monday.
Over 80,000 customers with Puget Sound Energy were in the dark Tuesday morning -- almost all of them in Pierce and southern King County. Wind gusts reached 40-45 mph along the gaps in the Cascade foothills with Enumclaw registering a gust of 45 mph. Wind Advisories were in effect until 11 a.m. for the foothill areas for continued gusts to 40-50 mph.
The lack of power and internet caused both the Sumner-Bonney Lake, Orting and Federal Way school districts to cancel classes on Tuesday.
For many others, the greatest impact Tuesday will be the thick smoke and degraded air quality. Several air monitoring sites in the Puget Sound area had air quality readings that were in the "unhealthy for all" category including some in Seattle and Everett.
The thick smoke led to some surreal scenes around the Puget Sound region Tuesday morning.
Air quality was expected to remain quite poor through Tuesday morning then expected to improve a little into the afternoon as the day warms and the air mixes a little more. But smoke will be a factor all day.
Wildfire danger was also expected to remain high through the day as windy weather and low humidity continues. Red Flag Warnings denoting critical fire conditions remain in effect into Wednesday.