northwest wildfires

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When wildfires roared through Washington during the summer and fall of 2014 and 2015, they caught people’s attention, even Democratic state lawmakers from the Puget Sound area such as Rep. Larry Springer.

Courtney Flatt

Two summers ago, a firestorm swept through Ken Bevis’ land outside Winthrop. It scarred hillsides, destroyed homes and outbuildings. Bevis turned to his folk music to help cope.

Wildfires: It’s Not All Bad

Sep 26, 2016
InciWeb / http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

After two devastating years of fires in the Northwest, it seems fire season brings only destruction. In 2014 and 2015 alone, more than half a million acres burned. But wildfires do have an upside.

How Do Wildfires Jump Rivers?

Aug 26, 2016
Connor Henricksen / Northwest Public Radio

Think about a campfire - or even a bonfire. As the fuel burns, embers are tossed up into the air. Usually they burn out quickly and are harmless.

Now think about wildfires. They are millions of times the size of a campfire and release much larger embers that are far more dangerous.

USGS

Fire officials are battling a major wildfire on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The wildfire spread rapidly onto tribal land, but response hasn’t kept up with the pace of the blaze.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday declared a state of emergency in 20 counties mostly on the dry side of the Cascades, an area vulnerable to wildfire. Resources are stretched thin in the battle to save homes and property.

In southeast Washington, the Range 12 Fire is finally out. But now there’s 176,600 acres of black. And it’s roasted much of the valuable habitat on the Hanford Reach National Monument.

A bipartisan coalition of Western U.S. lawmakers has renewed a call to change how the federal government pays to put out big forest fires. Currently, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management divert money from fire prevention and other programs to pay firefighting costs during bad fire years.

Amanda Peacher / Oregon Public Broadcasting

More than 100 people attended a Forest Service community meeting in John Day Tuesday, about last summer’s Canyon Creek Fire.

The Range 12 Fire in southeast Washington has destroyed some of the most sensitive shrub steppe habitat in the nation.

Crews Say Drones Hamper Firefighting Efforts

Aug 1, 2016

A wildfire in southeast Washington has grown to 70,000 acres between Yakima and the Tri-Cities. More than 100 crew members are working to keep the Range 12 Fire from spreading.

But they say something could slow that work down: drones.

Wildfire Season Blazes Into The Northwest

Aug 1, 2016

Several wildfires have broken out throughout Washington and Oregon this weekend after high heat, low humidity, and strong winds picked up.

Hot temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds forecast for this weekend have land managers across the Northwest worried about wildfires. The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings in both Oregon and Washington.

About a dozen wildfires are currently burning around the Northwest. The Bybee fire is a small one at 50 acres. It is uncontained and sending up smoke on the west side of Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon.

Editor’s note: Anna King’s reports from the 2015 wildfires in Washington state earned national recognition in breaking news and crisis journalism. We asked our Richland correspondent to reflect on fire, safety, and what’s changed over the years. --Phyllis Fletcher

Ben Brooks / Flickr

More homes now are built in rural and wildland areas. And fire managers are now seeing more wildfires spread from rural areas into cities and towns. Firefighters went up against these country-to-city fires last year in Chelan, and this year in California and Canada.

The Northwest saw several red flag warnings and fast-burning fires over the long holiday weekend. And in the last several years, regional firefighters say they are seeing bigger fires that threaten more homes.

This story has been updated.

A wildfire that broke out near Cle Elum Saturday has been fully contained according to the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office. The 50-acre fire caused several homes to be evacuated and threatened Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

Fireworks aren’t the only thing firefighters have to worry about this Fourth of July weekend. They have a big battle on their hands and have been bringing in extra crews and equipment to posts east of the Cascades.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Radio

The past few fire seasons in the Northwest have been brutal. Record-breaking blazes burned through the towns of Chelan and Pateros. This year is already starting out dry and hot. That’s why hundreds of firefighters across Washington are prepping for the summer.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

At first glance, cheatgrass looks innocuous. A dry, golden-white grass, its seeds hang down from bent stalks – seeds with sharp barbs known to harm pets. The invasive weed isn’t just a threat to cats and dogs: Cheatgrass is taking over rangelands across the West, covering vast swathes of land in dense, dry vegetation.

If you're at the Gorge Amphitheatre in central Washington and there's a large wildfire -- you might want to consider missing the next set of your favorite band. Just on Sunday, a 600-acre wildfire raged about three miles from the main stage where Alabama Shakes and The Cure were playing.

Doug Noon / Flickr

Imagine if we could predict exactly when and where wildfires would appear. We’re not quite there yet, but figuring out where fires will break out is an important part of modern firefighting.

Hannah Letinich

Some foresters say many Northwest forests simply have too many trees. That makes them more prone to disease, insects - and most worrisome of all - mega-fires. But what’s the best way to thin out forests and bring these areas back to more natural conditions? Turns out, there’s an app for that.

A state representative admits he's not one of the cool kids and nobody wants to sit by him on an airplane full of lawmakers.

A rancher tells of a wildfire so out of control, flames jumped and reached across a highway.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are introduced to a room full of refugees in English and Arabic.

These stories and more from our reporters were awarded six honors Saturday from the Idaho Press Club, recognizing the best Idaho journalism in 2015.

Idaho counties could declare federal forestland within their borders to be a "catastrophic public nuisance" under a measure approved by an Idaho legislative committee Tuesday.

A few short months from now, federal and state foresters around the West will purposely set controlled burns to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires later. This is a regular practice in Oregon, Idaho and California, but much less common in Washington state.

A photographer from Wenatchee, Washington, has made a revealing discovery at the scene of a remote and long-abandoned fire lookout: a pile of very old firewood.

Rowan Moore Gerety / / Northwest Public Radio

The summer of 2015 was the worst wildfire season in Washington state history: three young firefighters died and hundreds of homes burned in blazes that sent more than a million acres up in smoke. For residents of central Washington, a gathering on Monday offered the first chance to come together and ponder the future in a region likely to see more and bigger fires in years to come. 

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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