Washington wildfires | KNKX

Washington wildfires

Massive wildfires in U.S. West bring haze to East Coast

1 hour ago
Smoke from Western wildfires dims the sun before the New York Yankees game on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in New York.
Adam Hunger / The Associated Press

Wildfires in the American West, including one burning in Oregon that's currently the largest in the U.S., are creating hazy skies as far away as New York as the massive infernos spew smoke and ash into the air in columns up to 6 miles high.

Ahtanum State Forest covers more than 75,000 acres in Yakima County.
Department of Natural Resources

State authorities said Tuesday the Department of Natural Resources would temporarily close all recreation and public access to DNR-managed lands in eastern Washington due to the extreme fire danger.

Judy Jideonwo, left, a case manager at Angeline's Day Center for Women, holds her vaccination card after receiving the first dose of the COVID vaccine from medical assistant Aurora Artman in April.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press file

Washington has one of the lowest COVID-19 death tolls and highest vaccination rates in the country. But not all counties have kept the same pace. Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing for residents to get vaccinated now before COVID-19 variants become a big problem here. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins talked about this – and more – with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.

Erratic Oregon wildfire destroys dozens of homes, expands

Jul 15, 2021
The Bootleg Fire burns Thursday night near Highway 34 in southern Oregon. Firefighters scrambled Friday to control the raging inferno that's spreading miles a day in windy conditions.
Jason Pettigrew / Bootleg Fire Incident Command via AP

New updates throughout at 1:23 p.m. July 16: Firefighters scrambled Friday to control a raging inferno in southeastern Oregon that’s spreading miles a day in windy conditions, one of numerous wildfires across the U.S. West that are straining resources.

Western fires threaten parched American Indian tribal lands

Jul 14, 2021
Smoke from the Bootleg Fire grows over a single tree on July, 12, 2021, near Bly, Ore. An army of firefighters is working in hot, dry and windy weather to contain fires chewing through wilderness and burning homes across Western states.
Nathan Howard / The Associated Press

Fierce wildfires in the Pacific Northwest are threatening Native American lands that already are struggling to conserve water and preserve traditional hunting grounds amid a historic drought in the U.S. West.

The Washington State Capitol illuminated at night.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press file

COVID-19 numbers may be flattening in Washington – but wildfires are sweeping across the region and the official death toll from the state's record heat wave has risen. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins joined Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick to talk about those issues and many more.

Crews make progress against wildfires in western U.S.

Jul 12, 2021
Flames from the Jack Fire burn along Oregon 138 near Steamboat, about 40 miles east of Roseburg, Ore., on July 7.
Oregon Department of Transportation

Updated information about fires added at 5:20 p.m.

Dozens of wildfires burned across the torrid U.S. West on Monday, but fire agencies reported some progress in corralling the flames and forecasters predicted a gradual decrease in extreme temperatures.

A wildfire burns next to power lines near Othello, Wash., early Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press file

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday declared a state of emergency throughout Washington relating to the growing risk of wildfires, including a statewide prohibition on most outdoor and agricultural burning through Sept. 30.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democratic challenger Carolyn Long are vying to represent Washington's 3rd Congressional District in Southwest Washington. The race is seen as "flippable."
Don Ryan / Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press (file)

It’s the most expensive race in Washington’s 2020 election. In Washington’s 3rd Congressional District in Southwest Washington, Republican incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler is fighting for a sixth term against second-time Democrat challenger Carolyn Long.

Two girls play in warm and sunny weather at the International Fountain in Seattle on Friday, July 13, 2018.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

With all the bright sun, blue skies and warm temperatures that have dominated Puget Sound weather recently, it’s a little ironic to see showers in the forecast for Saturday. This weekend is the one anyone planning a major outdoor event in the Northwest typically aims for, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Based on legislative budgets released so far, a major increase in state funding for wildfire fighting and prevention looks likely. Washington's Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz, has requested an unprecedented $55 million dollars to fight and prevent wildfires. She argues this will save taxpayer money in the long run.

U.S. Forest Service / file photo

Wildfires know no boundaries. They jump from public to private land, from national forests to state parks. And local communities are often the best experts on which forested areas should be managed first to tame the risk of their spread. That’s the word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has announced a new, collaborative approach for managing wildfire risk.

Ben Torkelson / Chelan County Fire District 3 via AP)

Wildfire season used to start in mid-June, say state officials coordinating the response. Now they’re already out fighting wildfires in April, even in places west of the Cascades.

"Fire season is already here,” said Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz.

Inciweb via AP

Wildfire smoke has darkened skies and even scattered ashes in neighborhoods throughout the Puget Sound region. The orange-tinged light has an eerie glow that has many people wondering what on earth is going on? How bad is this year’s fire season and how is it different than previous years?

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The failure of the legislature to pass a capital budget leaves Washington’s state forests with an increasing risk of catastrophic wildfires. 

The state department of Natural Resources says a recent survey showed it has about 2.7 million acres of forests in Washington that are in poor health.

Bellamy Pailthorp / knkx

Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands presides over more than five and a half million acres of state forests and aquatic lands. It’s an open seat in the upcoming 2016 election, since incumbent Peter Goldmark announced his decision not to run for a third term. One of the top priorities of the office is the constitutional mandate to fund schools through logging. But conservation is also part of it.

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.

Ben Brooks / Flickr

Washington state’s worst-ever wildfire season took center stage once again in Washington, D.C.

Two local fire officials testified before the U.S. Senate’s Energy & Natural Resources Committee Tuesday, appealing to lawmakers for more funding for fire suppression and preparedness.

Another round of warm weather this week is prompting Northwest fire managers to warn that this summer's challenging fire season isn't over yet.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The recent rain doesn't mean the wildfire danger is over. That's the message heading into Labor Day weekend from fire managers in the Northwest.

Firefighters hose the edge of a controlled fire.
Elaine Thompson / AP

Firefighters are starting to get a handle on two giant wildfires burning in northcentral Washington.

The largest wildfire in state history, the Okanogan Complex, has now grown to 231 square miles but as Wednesday morning it was 45 percent contained.

The Okanogan Complex is being managed as part of one big fire including the 146-square-mile Chelan Complex. The Chelan Complex was 55 percent contained as of Wednesday morning.

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

In the poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost lays down the well-worn quote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” In this year’s dramatic Northwest wildfires, ranchers and neighbors are cutting down “good fences” of all kinds.

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.

This has been one of the worst — and most expensive — wildfire seasons ever in the Northwest, where climate change and a history of suppressing wildfires have created a dangerous buildup of fuels.

With fires burning hotter and more intense, there are renewed calls to change how the federal government pays to fight the biggest fires.

"These large and intense fires are a natural disaster in much the same way a hurricane or a tornado or a flood is," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says. "And they ought to be funded as such through the emergency funding of FEMA."

AP Images

New tools and new strategies are needed to fight and prevent wildfires nationwide. That was the sentiment at a field hearing held in Seattle by the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The hearing  was convened by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington, a Democrat, and John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican. They are collecting testimony for the Wildland Fire Management Act of 2015.

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.”

Todd Petit / Flickr

Many of the communities affected by this year's wildfires in central and eastern Washington have economies that rely heavily on tourism.

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says once the wildfire danger has passed, people should consider taking time to visit central and eastern Washington, to inject money back into the economy.

Some places have been evacuated and suffered damage from the wildfires. But others are just in a region people have chosen to avoid, to steer clear of wildfire danger this summer.

Here are some good places to look:

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.

Firewise is the name of a long-running campaign to get homeowners in wildfire country to take steps to reduce risk. Outside Omak, Wash., John Belles didn't just do the simple things. He built a futuristic, thin-shelled concrete dome house. It's now an unscathed beacon amid acres of hillside blackened by the Okanogan fire, the largest in state history.

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