wildfires

The Boeing Co.

State forestry departments in Washington and Oregon 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.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

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.

But the federal government, for the second time, turned down the application by Washington state for more aid. This time, FEMA said the effects of the fire were not severe enough "to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance.”

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it's ever been. But there's a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

The last week of July is historically the driest week of the year. And despite record-breaking rain last week, the forecast for the days ahead fits the bill for this time of year, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

“We’re going to have sun, warmth and virtually no precipitation,” Mass said of the week ahead.

Tim Durkan

If you love sunshine, Friday’s the day to get out and enjoy it.

The cooling trend we’ve been experiencing will continue this weekend and even bring some rain with it, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

Inciweb

Whether it’s due to negligence or arson, thousands of wildfires each year are caused by humans. And the person or business who starts a fire can expect a bill.

Jeff Bonebrake is with the Oregon Department of Forestry. It's his job to investigate how a fire started. Once that’s pinned down, he figures out who pays and how much. He says the bulk of the charges are for firefighter salaries and equipment use.

Philip Higuera / University of Idaho

Fire season has come alive in the Northwest. On Monday, 20 homes in Idaho's Sun Valley area were briefly under evacuation when a fire broke out in a nearby canyon. And a 5,000-acre fire north of Wenatchee, Washington continues to threaten houses in the area.

Fires can be devastating to people's lives. But according to new research, at least certain types of forests recovery fairly quickly.

Boise National Forest

scathing new report by a group of veteran wildfire experts says too little has been done to improve firefighter safety since an Arizona fire killed 19 firefighters a year ago. 

The group, called Safety Matters, is asking national wildfire managers to implement a series of changes aimed at putting safety above saving property.

Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock / U.S. Air Force

The federal government is already predicting this fire season will push firefighting resources almost $500 million over budget.

The cost of fighting wildfires has been steadily rising over the last two decades. And now, a new study finds a prevention tactic for fireproofing homes isn’t helping to bring those costs down.

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.

You may know that on a hot, sunny day, it’s better to be sitting in a white car than a black one. White reflects sunlight, while black absorbs more of it.

The same concept applies to researchers trying to figure out what effect wildfires have on climate change. And part of the answer is whether the smoke particles are dark or reflective.

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.

AP

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. 

The people who raise cattle destined to become steak or hamburger on your dinner plate are feeling the pinch. Wildfires this summer have scorched more than a million acres of Northwest rangeland. In addition, the Midwest drought is driving up feed costs across the board.

Now ranches and feedlots are looking to cut their feed costs in the short term... And longer term, have an eye on making the cattle themselves more efficient.

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.”

Campers evacuated as wildfires burn across Northwest

Aug 29, 2012

Two hunters who were reported missing during a wildfire in eastern Oregon have been located and are safe. But Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer says there's new concern about a pair of hikers who are thought to be in the vicinity of the Parish Cabin Fire.

Palmer says the hikers are from Portland and aren't thought to be in immediate danger. But he says they could end up stranded if the fire continues to spread.

Though firefighters have "gained ground on a number of wildfires across the West," they're having trouble in southern Idaho, The Associated Press reports.

There, winds have "fanned a fast-moving blaze across nearly 300 square miles of sagebrush and dry grass," the wire service says. The fire began Saturday. It was apparently sparked by a lightning strike.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Boise Tuesday . They toured the center that coordinates national wildfire response efforts.

Some firefighters from the Northwest have been sent to blazes across the West. But the firefighters still at home are playing the waiting game.

In Colorado, crews are approaching two weeks of battling the Waldo Canyon Fire. Meanwhile, the Northwest has been so wet, some fire managers dubbed last month “June-uary.”

The Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. — In the tinder-dry West, campfires, fireworks and even lit cigarettes are banned across public lands. Another fire-starting culprit, however, remains free of most restrictions: guns.

As wildfires continue to burn in the West, the U.S. Forest Service is going to battle this summer with fewer air tankers. The number of planes that drop retardant on fires has shrunk significantly over the past 12 years.

In Boise, Idaho, the shortage of air tankers has led to some unexpected repurposing of aircraft.

"This particular aircraft was used as Air Force One at one point," explains pilot Lyle Ehalt, standing next to his shiny white-and-green tanker at the Boise Airport.

"A firestorm of epic proportions" continues to threaten Colorado Springs, Colo., as more than 1,000 firefighters battle flames that by midday had forced more than 26,000 people to flee their homes.

It was local Fire Chief Rich Brown who called the inferno epic Tuesday night. Today, Lt. Jeff Kramer of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office said it's an event "that is certainly unprecedented in this city," The Denver Post reports.

The author of the 2009 bestseller, “The Big Burn,” says the famous 1910 fire that scored millions of acres in the Northwest still holds relevance for us today.

There weren’t always public lands in America, and there was a time when the Forest Service was on the chopping block in Congress. The future of both was impacted by the famous 1910 fire in north Idaho, western Montana, and eastern Washington.

YAKIMA, Wash. — A wildfire has closed U.S. Highway 97 between Goldendale and Toppenish and is threatening about 30 homes.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — The National Weather Service is warning of high wildfire danger over most of Washington's Cascades and Olympics.

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — Fire crews have contained a wildfire that burned about 30 acres near Port Townsend.

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. – About 90 firefighters are working to contain a 100-acre blaze that is burning in steep terrain northeast of Leavenworth and has forced the closure of Highway 2.

In the last ten years, the federal government and rural landowners have spent increasing sums of money thinning spindly trees and removing underbrush. The aim is to reduce risk from wildfire.

A new study by the Forest Service finds that tree stands need to be "intensively" thinned for that strategy to be effective.

Study co-author David Peterson of the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Seattle says a dense tinderbox forest before thinning could have more than a 1,000 trees per acre.

Sadie Babits / Northwest News Network

The southern part of the U.S. – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California – will likely have significant wildfires this year. Already fire crews are battling more than a dozen fires just in Texas. But here in the Northwest, the fire outlook is much rosier.