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News / Clark County News

Heat wave in Clark County prompts health warnings, raises wildfire concerns

Hot, dry conditions continue as region sees triple-digit temperatures

By Mark Bowder, Columbian Metro Editor,
Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer, and
Amy Libby, Columbian Web Editor
Published: August 14, 2023, 6:08pm
6 Photos
Vika Eykhman, 13, of Vancouver escapes the heat in the cool waters of the Washougal River at the Sandy Swimming Hole on Monday afternoon. Eykhman was one of dozens of locals that sought out the popular spot as a refuge from the high summer temperatures. "It's cold. I just usually get right in," she said.
Vika Eykhman, 13, of Vancouver escapes the heat in the cool waters of the Washougal River at the Sandy Swimming Hole on Monday afternoon. Eykhman was one of dozens of locals that sought out the popular spot as a refuge from the high summer temperatures. "It's cold. I just usually get right in," she said. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A heat wave that brought triple-digit temperatures to the region has prompted health warnings and raised concerns about wildfire.

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for dangerously hot conditions until 11 p.m. Wednesday, with afternoon temperatures reaching as high as 106 in some areas Monday and only slightly cooler temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday.

Overnight lows will also be near record levels, reducing the ability for individuals to cool down and get relief from the heat.

The reason for the heat wave is a strong high pressure over the Pacific Northwest that’s allowing little mixing of the atmosphere, coupled with an offshore flow of air keeping cooling ocean breezes away, according to Gerald Macke of the National Weather Service office in Portland.

Macke said the conditions, while hot and dry, do not rise to the level of a heat dome like the one that shattered records in June 2021, reaching a peak of 115 degrees.

Daily records are another matter. Sunday’s high of 100 degrees as measured at Vancouver’s Pearson Field fell one degree short of a record for Aug. 13 set in 2021. But the Aug. 14 record of 102 degrees set in 2008 was equalled at 1:45 p.m. Monday and quickly surpassed en route to a high of 108 degrees before easing to 106 as of just before 5 p.m.

An Aug. 15 record of 103 degrees set in 1933 could be threatened Tuesday, with a forecast high of 101 degrees. Temperatures should begin to drop below 100 degrees Wednesday and drop into the 80s by the weekend.

Overnight low temperatures have been close to record levels but have remained below daily records kept by the weather service.

Extreme fire danger

The weather service also issued a red flag warning through 11 p.m. Monday due to high temperatures, low humidity and winds up to 25 mph. Such conditions greatly increase the risk of rapid fire spread, putting life and property at risk, according to the weather service.

Continuing hot and dry conditions prompted Clark County officials to expand the county’s burn ban to include recreational fires and bonfires, campfires and fires in outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and chimneys. The use of contained camp grills and charcoal grills is still allowed.

Camas-Washougal Fire Department’s Fire Chief Cliff Free and Fire Marshal Ron Schumacher also issued a recreational burn ban in the cities of Camas and Washougal, prohibiting all outdoor fires using wood fuel. Barbecues or grills using charcoal or gas and gas fire pits are still allowed.

Interim Clark County Fire Marshal Curtis Eavenson recommended homeowners in rural and urban areas create defensible space around their home to prevent fires from spreading.

This looks like removing fuel, or flammable material, from within 3 to 5 feet of foundations, garages and sheds, as well as within 10 feet of a home. Fuel may also exist under decks and porches or in gutters and eaves. Cut the lawn if it is brown and prune trees so its lowest branches are at least 6 feet above ground.

Health hazards

High afternoon and warm overnight temperatures prompted warnings from public health officials of significantly increased risks of heat-related illnesses. People working outside or taking part in outdoor activities, as well as those with health conditions, the elderly and infants are most at risk.

Recommendations for staying safe in the heat include staying indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible; keeping your home cool by closing windows and shades during daylight hours and using your stove and oven less to keep temperatures cooler inside; and checking on friends, family and neighbors before bedtime. Assist those who are vulnerable or at higher risk, neighbors who are elderly, ill, or may need help.

Health officials also recommend staying hydrated by drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and drinking before you’re thirsty; and taking frequent breaks when working outdoors and wearing wide-brimmed hats, light-colored loose-fitting clothing.

Keep outdoor pets safe and make sure they have protection from heat. Walk on grass instead of asphalt, which can burn your pet’s paws. Never leave people or pets in a parked vehicle.

Do not rely on a fan as your only cooling source. While electric fans might provide some comfort, they won’t prevent heat-related illness when temperatures are very hot.

Knowing the signs of heat-related illness is important, according to Clark County Public Health. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment isn’t provided.

Call 911 if you see these warning signs of heat stroke: body temperature above 103 degrees, red hot and dry skin (no sweating), rapid pulse, throbbing headache, nausea, dizziness and confusion. While you wait for medical help, place the person in distress in a bath or cool shower or spray the person with cool water from a garden hose. Do not give the person fluids to drink.

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City and county personnel should refer people seeking cooling spaces to the housing hotline at 360-695-9677. Additional cooling spaces may open during severe weather. Additional resources and increased shelter capacity are being activated.

Cooling centers

Indoor community centers are available at:

  • Firstenburg Community Center, 700 N.E. 136th Ave., Vancouver. Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sundays/holidays.
  • Marshall Community Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver. Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sundays/holidays.

Indoor cooling spaces, no referral needed:

  • River City Church, 2400 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver. Open noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Snacks and drinks provided. Leashed, house-broken pets allowed.
  • Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way, Vancouver. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • St. Paul Vancouver with Outsiders Inn, 1309 Franklin St., Vancouver. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Living Hope Church, 2711 N.E. Andresen Road, Vancouver. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Donations of water, ice cream and snacks are needed.
  • Mill Plain United Methodist Church, 15804 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver. Open 2 to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Pets on leashes or in carriers welcome.
  • Libraries are also open as a daytime cooling option; more information can be found at https://tinyurl.com/2cnu3ztn.

Public cooling spaces with shade and restroom access. No referrals needed and open dawn to dusk:

  • Bagley Community Park, 4607 Plomondon St., Vancouver.
  • Burnt Bridge Creek Trail, restrooms at trailheads.
  • David Douglas Park, 1016 N. Garrison Road, Vancouver.
  • Esther Short Park, West Eighth and Columbia streets, Vancouver.
  • Fisher Basin Community Park, Southeast 192nd Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard.
  • Leroy Haagen Memorial Park, Northeast Ninth Street, Vancouver.
  • Leverich Park, 4400 N.E. Leverich Park Way, Vancouver.
  • Marine Park boat launch, 4501 S.E. Columbia Way, Vancouver.
  • Marshall Park, 1069 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver.
  • Memory/Mill Plain Park, ballfields by the old Vancouver Public Library on Mill Plain; also free Wi-Fi signal there.
  • Nikkei Park, 5009 N.E. 135th Ave., Vancouver.
  • Vancouver Waterfront Park/Portland Loos (open 24/7), 695 Waterfront Way, Vancouver.
  • Wintler Park, 6400 Beach Drive, Vancouver.
Columbian Metro Editor
Columbian staff writer