Smoke clears as storms move through

 Storms brought cooler and wetter weather into the Western and Northwestern U.S. this weekend, breaking up a temperature inversion that had blanketed much of the region with acrid smoke from dozens of wildfires.

Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said Saturday they expected fire activity to decrease over the next several weeks. Center spokeswoman Kari Cobb says air quality should improve as the smoke-trapping inversion breaks up.

"We should see it lifting more today," she said Saturday. "It's predicted to be mostly gone by tomorrow in most of the West."

She said forecasters expect storms to bring some lightning and winds to 30 mph, notably in Montana, but that rain and higher humidity should decrease the chances of new fires.

The center says there are 67 active large wildfires being fought.

A look wildfires across the region:


A 165-square-mile wildfire burning within the Pasayten Wilderness about 12 miles north of Mazama is the largest wildfire in Washington state.

It also crossed the border into Canada late last month with flames fueled by heavy dead and down timber.

Officials say the fire is about 40 percent contained but rugged terrain is hampering firefighting efforts.

Near Enumclaw, Washington, firefighters are attacking a 1-square-mile wildfire that is threatening the watershed for the city of Tacoma as well as industrial timberland.

About 200 firefighters are assigned to that fire.


A wildfire burning in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is holding at about 52 square miles but residents in communities in three counties remain under evacuation notices and those in other communities have been told to be ready to flee.

More than 900 firefighters are battling the blaze that's 7 percent contained and burning in timber.

Officials say firefighters set fires on Friday to burn fuel ahead of the blaze and have greatly reduced the danger of the fire's spread to the north. They say a similar strategy burned up fuel around a communications tower south of Cascades Locks.

Officials say the fire has burned in a mosaic pattern, and some areas within the perimeter of the fire have trees that should survive, keeping at least some of the scenic gorge green.

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