JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The Department of Defense has agreed to assign 200 active-duty soldiers to help fight wildfires raging in the Pacific Northwest.
Civilian firefighting commanders said Tuesday the soldiers from Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, will undergo four days of training and then be sent to a complex of 14 wildfires in the Umpqua National Forest that have burned 47 square miles.
The soldiers will join about 1,000 firefighters already at the site.
The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, a federal agency that coordinates wildfire-fighting, says 80 large fires are burning on 2,200 square miles in nine Western states.
The military has already dispatched three C-130s to drop fire-retardant slurry and two RC-26 surveillance aircraft to help fight Western fires.
Norse Peak Fire
A wildfire burning near Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state has grown to more than 29 square miles, and heavy smoke is blanketing many cities in Washington.
Mandatory evacuations were announced for the fire near Mount Rainier, including for the Crystal Mountain ski resort. The resort shut down Monday because of smoke.
Meanwhile, heavy smoke is damaging air quality from Seattle to Spokane on Tuesday.
The air quality in Spokane was rated as hazardous on Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service says it is likely to get worse as wind shifts bring in smoke from fires in Canada, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
People in the Spokane region are being advised they should remain indoors if they can.
Oregon fire jumps to Washington
Miles of interstate highway east of Portland, Oregon, remained closed as crews battled a growing wildfire that has caused evacuations and sparked blazes across the Columbia River in Washington state.
Hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate because of a seven-square mile fire that started Saturday. The blaze, which officials think may have been caused by fireworks, forced the shutdown of more than 30 miles of Interstate 84 east of Portland through the scenic Columbia River Gorge.
Authorities said Tuesday embers from the fire caused a new blaze across the Columbia River in Washington state.
Evacuation orders remained in place in and around Cascade Locks, Oregon, for dozens of structures and businesses.