Northwest Public Radio

A fire burning in Washington’s Central Cascades is prompting evacuations and closing recreation areas. 

Scott Leadingham

Fire danger in North Central and North Eastern Washington is very high, prompting the state Department of Natural Resources to upgrade warnings and burn bans.

Inciweb / InciWeb

Fire officials say they are starting to send some crew members to other fires from the Cayuse Mountain fire burning on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Jennifer Duguay / NWPR

Private companies are essential in fighting the mega-wildfires that yearly burn through the backcountry and encroach on towns. One fire company in the Methow Valley is a family affair.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Consumer drones look like child's play after you get a gander at the unmanned, water-dropping helicopter that was pitched to the federal government Wednesday. The K-MAX chopper is the largest of several remotely-piloted firefighting aircraft to get a tryout this year.

Elaine Thompson/ Associated Press / AP Photo

Fire fighters in Washington say the state’s largest ever blaze, the Okanogan Complex, is now nearly contained. Even so, the worst wildfire season ever has put new urgency into efforts to reform forest fire policies. A panel of scientists says it’s clear current practices are not working.

The Chelan and Okanogan Complex fires total more than 230,000 acres. Both fires still threaten more than 8,000 homes.

Rain Showers Aid Modest Progress On Wildfires

Aug 31, 2015

Light rains and higher humidity helped firefighters slow the spread of wildfires burning in North Central Washington on Sunday. More favorable weather is expected this week.

Multiple times this summer, the sighting of a wayward hobbyist drone has grounded aerial firefighting aircraft at Western wildfires. But unmanned aircraft have the potential to be useful at wildfires too.

US National Weather Service Spokane Washington

A very bad scenario looks to play out Saturday when it comes to the weather and fires burning in North Central and Northeast Washington.

While the weather forecast looked promising Thursday in calling for rains to hit both regions, the newest prediction could not be worse when it comes to the wildfires.

Meteorologist Andy Brown of the National Weather Service in Spokane is calling for sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph Saturday, with gusts up to 50, and even higher gusts in the mountains.

The incident command for Washington’s biggest wildfire requested a mental health team to help people in Okanogan County. A national nonprofit called Green Cross has responded to the call.

Unhealthy smoke continued to blanket large parts of central and eastern Washington state and north Idaho Wednesday. Some workers in north central Washington were sent home because the dense smoke was rated downright “hazardous.”

More firefighters continue to arrive on the front lines of the nation’s highest priority wildfire. It’s the 400 square mile complex of lightning-sparked fires near the Canadian border in north central Washington dubbed the Okanogan Complex.

The fight against the huge wildfires in north central Washington has turned a corner. Fire bosses have even started using words like “optimistic” and “great progress.”

Laurentia Romaniuk / Flickr

Wildfire smoke can cause a lot of health problems – for your lungs, your eyes, and more, particularly if you have chronic health issues. What can you do to protect yourself?

Smoke From Washington Wildfires Spreads

Aug 24, 2015

Smoke and haze continues to plague much of Washington from the wildfires that are burning over large parts of the state.

Some 16 wildfires and hundreds of smaller spot fires have been reported.

Todd Pechota is a fire incident commander.

He told reporters that if you add up all of the burning areas, the perimeter would extend nearly a thousand miles.

And as for all the smoke, Pechota says unstable atmospheric conditions could clear the worst of it, but that's not good for windy conditions.

Weather Could Cause Trouble For Washington Fire Crews

Aug 24, 2015

Weather is expected to cause more problems Monday for fires in north central Washington. The Okanogan Complex is burning more than 250,000 acres.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Radio

An investigation into what caused the deaths of three firefighters and injured four others last week in North Central Washington is just beginning. This fire is now part of the Okanogan Complex, which has burned nearly 375 square miles.


Firefighters are gaining control of the Canyon Creek Complex. It’s still growing, but there’s little danger to homes as most of the blaze is moving into the wilderness. In John Day, Oregon, Ashley Stewart reports.

Officials say firefighters made “great progress” overnight. The blaze has grown slightly to more than 69-thousand acres. Now, it’s 23 percent contained – that’s up from 17 percent on Saturday. For now, most homes are safe as the wildfire moves away from town and into the county’s wilderness area.

A juvenile inmate helping fight wildfires in North Central Washington escaped Friday after allegedly assaulting a staff member. Officials have said the inmate no longer poses a threat to the community. Courtney Flatt has more. 

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that the escaped inmate was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The inmate had stolen a gun the previous night.  

Courtney Flatt

Fires in North Central Washington are continuing to threaten homes and buildings. Thousands of people are still under evacuation orders. But calming winds have helped slow the fires’ progress. 

North Central Washington Fire Update

Aug 23, 2015

As of Sunday at noon, the fires in North Central Washington covered more than 140,000 acres, but the two largest – Chelan Complex and Wolverine – are more than 30% contained.Here’s what we know as of Sunday at 12 PM:

Okanogan Complex Fire Update

Aug 22, 2015
Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

What’s happening with the Okanogan Complex Fire?

As of 5 PM Saturday, the five fires in the Okanogan Complex covered more than 227,000 acres – primarily due to Friday’s expansion to the south on the Tunk Block fire, fanned by strong winds blowing north to south. 

Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

President Obama’s emergency declaration for Washington unlocks federal firefighting tools. U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell applauded the declaration during a stop in Spokane Friday, but says the state still needs aerial resources.

Methow Valley ranchers and their horses fled fire in Central Washington this week. They hauled the horses out in convoys of trailers. Now one herd of 15 horses has been evacuated to the a ranch outside of Wenatchee.

Wind Could Shift Direction Of Chelan Complex Fires

Aug 21, 2015

Wind is continuing to whip up wildfires burning in north central Washington state. After a dry cold front blew through this morning, another strong surge of wind Friday could cause trouble.

Rowan Moore Gerety / Northwest Public Radio

President Obama has declared a federal emergency across Washington state, after a wildfire near Twisp killed three firefighters Wednesday afternoon. Wildfires in eastern Washington now cover roughly half a million acres.

As firefighters work to contain the Canyon Creek Complex wildfire, high winds and hot temperatures mean the fire keeps growing.

Fire Begins To Approach Okanogan

Aug 20, 2015
AP Images

Update 8/21 morning: Firefighters worked through the night digging hand lines and protecting structures as winds picked up in the hills above the Okanogan Valley. One front of the Okanogan Complex fires is now within two miles of the town of Okanogan itself. 

Wildfires are burning across nearly 600 square miles of Washington state and the forecast today calls for strong winds in the most affected areas.