WENATCHEE, Wash., Sept. 19 (UPI) -- A wildfire in central Washington has claimed at least one life while smoke is causing respiratory problems for local residents, officials say.
Chris Seelye of Darby, Mont., collapsed Monday while working as a firefighter at the Klone Fire northeast of Entiat, Wash., the Wenatchee World reported. He died in a hospital a few hours later.
In the Wenatchee Valley, where two major fires have fouled the air for more than a week, clinics and hospitals reported increased numbers of people coming in with respiratory problems. Forecasters said they could not predict when conditions would return to normal.
"Maybe when the fires go out?" said Ellie Kelch, who works for the National Weather Service in Spokane. "You don't want to hear that, I know. But there could be some truth to it."
The Cashmere School District, in between the fires, has canceled all classes because the air quality inside its buildings measures as polluted as that outside.
In Idaho, an 18-year-old volunteer firefighter has been charged with setting the Karney Fire, the Idaho Statesman reported. Nathaniel Bartholomew may have started the fire Monday because he wanted to get his father's attention, Boise County Chief Deputy Dale Rogers said.
The father is also a firefighter.
The blaze escaped containment Wednesday in hot dry weather, but firefighters were able to protect homes in the area, the newspaper said.