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Sleepy Hollow Fire rages in central Washington amid record-breaking heat

U.S. Forest Service firefighters cut brush near houses in northern Wenatchee, Wash., on June 28 as the Sleepy Hollow Fire spread quickly, fueled by low humidity and strong winds. (Don Seabrook/Wenatchee World via AP)

All-time June heat records are dropping like dominoes in the Northwest as a multi-day heat wave has pushed highs to triple-digits and helped to ignite a dangerously fast wildfire that forced the evacuation of several hundred homes in central Washington.

The Sleepy Hollow Fire started on Sunday afternoon in the dry, hot brush outside Wenatchee in Chelan County, the AP reports. Wenatchee’s temperature pushed to 109 degrees and the dew point fell to just 41 degrees on Sunday afternoon, a wickedly dry combination that fueled the fast-growing blaze. Unfortunately, winds were persistent from the northwest around 15 mph and pushed the fire straight toward the city of Wenatchee.

“From here, we could see embers just flying,” Albert Rookard told the AP. “There was fire in so many places. We could see emergency vehicles flashing across town.”

Weak showers were moving through the state on Sunday but so far nothing indicates that there was much lightning associated with the rain, and officials are investigating what ignited the fire.

Social video footage captured the Sleepy Hollow Fire outside Wenatchee, Wash., which forced the evacuation of several hundred homes in central Washington. (Video: The Washington Post)

The weekend heat was widespread across the state. Temperatures climbed into the triple-digits on Saturday and Sunday in southeast Washington as a ridge of high pressure pushed north into western Canada. Highs have been running as much as 35 degrees above average for this time of year.

Walla Walla, Wash., rose to 113 degrees on Sunday — a measurement that, if verified, would set a new state record for all-time highest June temperature, according to weather historian Christopher C. Burt. The old Washington state record for highest June temperature is 112 degrees on June 18, 1961, at John Day Dam along the southern border of Washington, east of Portland, Ore.

Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington, noted that one observing station near Kennewick, Wash., recorded an astonishing high temperature of 120 degrees on Sunday. “If true, this would exceed the ALL TIME RECORD TEMPERATURE EVER OBSERVED in Washington,” since August in 1961, when the mercury spiked to 118 degrees at Ice Harbor Dam in Walla Walla, Wash.

The National Weather Service in Spokane, Wash., also noted these new June records:

With a morning low of 78 degrees, Salt Lake City has tied the old record for warmest minimum temperature in the month of June on Monday.

“As of 10:30 a.m., it’s already 92°F and it looks like we are on pace for a max even higher than yesterday’s 102°F, which would put us at [a high temperature of] 103°F or 104°F,” Salt Lake City resident and University of Utah professor Jim Steenburgh said on his blog. “If we hit 103°F, our average temperature for the day, assuming we don’t drop below 78 before midnight tonight, will be 90.5°F.”

“The bottom line is that you will experience the hottest June day ever in Salt Lake City today,” Steenburgh said.

Parts of Washington and Oregon, as well as southwest Idaho, are under a red flag warning for fire weather again on Monday. The National Weather Service is calling for winds from the west gusting up to 35 mph and “abundant dry lightning,” which will probably ignite new fires. The Sleepy Hollow Fire is likely to spread eastward quickly for a second day in a row. So far on Monday morning in Wenatchee, winds have gusted to 30 mph.