A couple of unseasonably large wildfires in the Northwest are giving crews an early taste of fire season.

Rowan Moore Gerety / NWPR

The weed whacker is a frequent companion to the sounds of chirping birds and rustling pines at Ross Frank’s ranch outside Leavenworth. With forested land on all sides, Frank says managing his woodlot has become part of his lifecycle, “like taking out the trash on Sunday.”

Using the machine to clear dense brush beneath a stand of aspens beside his home, Frank says “we’re mimicking what fire would have done naturally”--clearing out the understory to make future fires less damaging.

As Northwest states brace for what's expected to be a challenging summer for fighting wildfires, Oregon has decided to renew its wildfire insurance policy.

Both Oregon and Washington’s state forestry departments had hoped to try out drones this summer to provide reconnaissance at wildfire scenes. But neither firefighting agency managed to pull it off. Now both plan to try again next year.

The National Guard / Flickr

A slow wildfire season in the U.S. means the Forest Service won’t have to dip into other parts of its budget to cover firefighting expenses. The federal government’s fiscal year ended Tuesday. As Scott Graf reports, it’s the first time in three years the agency’s firefighting allotment will cover actual costs. 

Rex Parker / Flickr

The U.S. Forest Service is developing a rule that would let it decide whether the media could film in wilderness areas, or take photos there. Broadcasters say the rule gives the government too much control over the content of news stories.

The Forest Service would issue permits based on the potential impact to wilderness areas as well as the story topic.

A fee of up to $1,500 could also be required to receive a permit.

Ron Pisaneschi is the general manager of Idaho Public Television. He says he and other broadcasters are prepared to fight the rule.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Washington State’s worst fire season was not bad enough to warrant more federal assistance. People of the Methow Valley and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation were hoping for more money to rebuild hundreds of lost homes and livelihoods.

In the Methow Valley there’s now a housing shortage. The state estimates somewhere around 350 homes were burned down. Now, families are trying to stay near their jobs, the people they know or schools.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

For years there's been a battle raging between Idaho ranchers and the federal government over whether ranchers should be able to fight wildfires. Get out there, with their trucks and tanks of water and try to put the fires out themselves. Ranchers say they've always done it. The Feds have said, leave it to the pros and don't make yourself a liability. At times it's almost come close to blows. But now a truce has been struck. And as correspondent Jessica Robinson reports, it could change the way fires are fought every summer.

sean dreilinger / flickr

A wildfire southeast of Portland has grown to more than 3,500 acres and threatens more than 160 homes. Firefighters are expected to catch a break from the hot, dry conditions for a few days until the next round of warm weather moves into the region this weekend. The "36 Pit" fire is just the latest in a series of large fires in the Northwest this summer. 

National Interagency Fire Center

Fire season in the Northwest is winding down for this year.

But scientific models suggest that with climate change, the region can expect more large wildfires in the future.