Washington wildfires

The wildfires burning in central Washington prompted another round of evacuations Friday night.

Residents of fire-ravaged central Washington say they're in a “state of shock.” Fires destroyed more houses over the weekend and prompted additional evacuation notices.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says 1,000 National Guard troops will take a crash course in wildfire fighting so they can be deployed to central Washington fires. A blaze in Okanogan County that the governor calls a “firestorm” has destroyed around 100 homes.

Inslee says the troops are currently in Yakima for annual training.

"We're lucky, because they are on duty and in a place they can be trained. So we are going to bring trainers from the Department of Natural Resources to train them as rapidly as possible to be available — not just now, but for the rest of the summer," he said. 

About 80 people woke up in a Red Cross shelter in central Washington Friday morning after a wildfire forced the town of Pateros to evacuate overnight. Initial reports are that 40 homes and a church have burned in the small town on the Columbia River.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Residents of 860 homes have been told they should evacuate as a wildfire burns out of control in central Washington state.

The Chiwaukum Creek fire in Chelan County, believed to have been started by lightning and first detected on Tuesday, remains zero percent contained. It has now burned approximately 4,500 acres.

A wildfire burning near Leavenworth is about 10 percent contained, but firefighters are keeping a wary eye on temperatures expected to climb into the 90s.

The Eagle fire covers 1,186 acres and is located about 5 miles northwest of the Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth.

U.S. Forest Service

A ridge-top wildfire burning northeast of Leavenworth, Wash., tripled in size overnight and residents of 30 nearby homes have been told to evacuate. Residents of another 35 homes have been told to prepare to evacuate.

Fire spokeswoman Robin DeMario said on Wednesday morning the Eagle Fire has grown to more than 2 square miles, because of overnight fire activity and more accurate mapping.

With wildfires still raging across the Northwest, fire managers are turning to private firefighting crews in increasing numbers. One private industry group says contractors are responsible for a surprising 40 percent of firefighters on the ground in the region.

Both the U.S. Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry said that figure sounds about right. But the shift didn't happen overnight; the Oregon Department of Forestry's Rod Nichols says the change started in the 80s.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Torrents of mud and debris have closed three roads near Wenatchee in central Washington. The landslides were caused by thunderstorms on Sunday, along with wildfire damage.

The mudflows have hampered firefighting efforts on the Mile Post 10 fire, which has grown to 6,000 acres since Friday. Some residents and fire trucks were stranded. 

Washington State Department of Natural Resources / Flickr

Drizzly skies are expected to yield to warmer temperatures and some sun this weekend, because of an upper level trough over us and that’s causing upward motion and clouds, says Cliff Mass, KPLU’s weather expert.

Fire crews are scrambling to respond to reports of new wildfires sparked by lightning after thunderstorms swept through central Washington.

Jim Duck is the operations coordinator for the region's Interagency Dispatch Center. He says there are reports of new wildfires in Okanogan, Douglas and Kittitas counties.

Department of Natural Resources

Fire crews were gaining a handle on the wildfire burning in the Capitol State Forest Tuesday.

At noon, the C-Line fire was at 70 percent containment at 80 acres, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Several roads and trails shut down by the blaze were to remain closed at least until the end of the day (see full list of closures).

Washington State Department of Transportation

Wildfire Awareness Week began Monday with record-breaking heat and crews working to contain two blazes that broke out over the weekend in Western Washington.


OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Department of Natural Resources has concluded that an August wildfire that caused $11 million damage was caused by sparks from welding or cutting work on a bridge southeast of Cle Elum.

The department on Monday released the results of its investigation into the Taylor Bridge Fire that destroyed 61 homes and blackened 36 square miles. 

Dry east winds are bringing a higher risk of wildfires to most of western Washington and western Oregon.

After NW fires: Bring on the bugs

Sep 30, 2012

Wildfires have already scorched more than one million acres across the Northwest this year. It may take years before the signs of the burns are no longer visible. But charred Northwest forests are already a-buzz with new life.

Burned forests are not quiet places.

“It’s very lively in the forest immediately after a fire," says Connie Mehmel. "Very lively. And a lot of that liveliness is insects.”

Northwest fire season overlapping with hunting season

Sep 28, 2012

Evacuation notices around the Northwest have subsided as fire crews beat back the threat of wildfire to homes and subdivisions.

Officials have removed an alert near Sisters, Oregon, where the Pole Creek Fire is 80 percent contained. In Idaho, the Idaho County Sheriff lifted an evacuation order near the McGuire Complex in the Nez Perce National Forest. And crews at the Wenatchee Complex in Washington have been reduced by half since last weekend.

Firefighters gain upper hand on Northwest fires

Sep 25, 2012

Firefighters are making progress on several massive blazes around the Northwest. In Oregon, the Pole Creek Fire near Sisters is around 70 percent contained. Crews in central Washington are getting the upper hand on the 53,000-acre Wenatchee Complex, where another blaze flared up yesterday. And in Idaho fire bosses report minimal activity at the Mustang Complex along the Idaho-Montana border.

Wenatchee graphic designer Dennis Weddle made t-shirts commemorating the 2012 fires for some local firefighters. To his surprise, members of the public also wanted them.

Wildfire smoke is becoming the “new normal” for some parts of the Northwest. In central Washington, health officials are urging residents to keep their doors and windows closed and stay inside. Bad air has forced at least one school district to take some unusual measures to keep class in session.

The town of Cashmere is at the geographic center of Washington –- and about 8 miles from one of the state’s largest wildfires. Cashmere schools closed last week due to hazardous air, both inside and outside classrooms.

Now, school is back in session. With a few modifications.

Smoke creating vicious cycle in Northwest skies

Sep 24, 2012

The fight against numerous large fires in central Washington is turning the corner. Since the weekend, fire bosses have been able to release nearly 400 firefighters from the blazes near Wenatchee.

But forecasters say it may be a while before the Inland Northwest sees clear, blue skies again.

U.S. Forest Service researcher Miriam Rorig says smoke projections show poor conditions east of the Cascades hanging on through the week and spreading into north Idaho.

New evacuations as Table Mountain wildfire triples in size

Sep 20, 2012
NPR / <a href="http://apps.npr.org/fire-forecast/">See the entire map</a>

NBC News reports that new evacuations came Thursday as eight-inch chunks of burning bark were reported to have fallen in Mission Ridge. Those chunks were coming from an explosive fire inside the Table Mountain Complex some six miles away, a fire incident spokesman said.

The Table Mountain Complex of wildfires in Chelan and Kittitas counties has tripled in size to more than 47 square miles

Washington wildfire smoke closes schools

Sep 18, 2012

A tree faller assigned to a wildfire burning north of Wenatchee has died. The U.S. Forest Service says the man became ill Monday afternoon from an unspecified cause. He was transported to a hospital where he later died.

Heavy smoke from multiple wildfires continues to fill valleys on the east slopes of the Cascades. Pollution monitors again rated the air "hazardous" to breathe in Wenatchee and Ellensburg Tuesday.

WENATCHEE, Wash. – A firefighter assigned to a wildfire burning north of Wenatchee has died.

Agencies responding to the blaze say the firefighter became ill Monday afternoon and was transported to a nearby hospital where he died.

This 3-minute video (below) provides a unique perspective of the wildfire mission from a Washington Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter as it scoops up water with its 660 gallon bucket, flies through smoke-filled skies and drops it on the flames below, according to a press release from the Washington National Guard.

The Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. – Wildfires continued to burn in central Washington, aided by unseasonably warm temperatures.

Northwest wildfires not all bad for local economies

Sep 17, 2012

Crews continue to make progress on several wildfires in central Washington. State health officials say the air is smoky enough around Wenatchee to be unhealthy for people with sensitive respiratory systems.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Oregon have been looking into the economic impact of large wildfires. Their findings indicated that there can actually be an upside to local economies.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — The Washington National Guard has deployed two helicopters equipped with water buckets to help crews battling a wildfire near Wenatchee.

Smoke in central Washington is so thick schools sent kids home early in the town of Cashmere. They’ll start two hours later Friday.

About 1,000 firefighters are at work trying to contain several blazes near Wenatchee. At least 360 people had to evacuate.

Fire information spokesman Mick Meuller says cooler temperatures are helping to keep humidity levels up. But he doesn’t expect that to last.

Smoke continues to create haze in central Washington

Sep 13, 2012

Smoke continues to create a haze over central Washington. Several wildfires are burning near Wenatchee.

I’m standing at the top of Blewett Pass, west of Wenatchee on Highway 97. The elevation here is about 4,100 feet. But the air here is just clogged with this peach colored smoke.

Just looking off into the forest, you can barely see more than a 100 yards in the distance. And the trees just sort of fade away into the smoke.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state officials say smoke from dozens of lightning-sparked wildfires is not only blanketing much of central and eastern Washington, it's drifting into parts of western Washington, where alarmed residents are calling 911.