environment

Heavy Smoke Lowers Chelan Air Quality, Helps Firefight

Aug 24, 2015

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.

Smokejumpers from the McCall base in Idaho prepare to drop into the Payette National Forest, Idaho, on July 2, 2014.
U.S. Forest Service Photo/Kari Greer

Wildland firefighters come in all forms: There are seasonal workers, Army reservists – and prisoners who fight fires for a few dollars a day.

And then there are the smokejumpers who parachute into the heart of fire country.

Steve Surgeon surveys the ruins after he lost outbuildings and vehicles in a wildfire on the outskirts of Okanogan, Wash., Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. His home was saved , though.
AP Photo/Brian Skoloff

The massive, deadly wildfire burning in Okanogan County has become the largest blaze in state history, a fire spokesman said Monday.

Air quality is classified as good Monday morning and visibility improved in cities along Interstate 84 and throughout the Willamette Valley after smoke from numerous fires funneled down the Columbia River Gorge.

The smoke moved in quickly. Satellite imagery from MODIS shows that it took about 24 hours for Oregon and Washington to be completely covered.

The Canyon Creek Complex near John Day is still growing, but shelters are closing up and people are heading home after days away.

By Sunday morning, the blaze had grown to more than 69,000 acres. Fire officials say a lot of that was strategic – they’re burning land with controlled blazes to funnel the fire into an area that was burned three years ago.

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office says 39 homes have been destroyed in the fire so far.

Still, many evacuation alerts have been downgraded and people are returning to their homes after days away.

For Fire Crews in Chelan, Safety Is Top Priority

Aug 23, 2015

Fire crews Saturday had an easier time with wind in North Central Washington. That meant it was easier to fight the Chelan Complex. It also meant the area had unhealthy levels of smoke.

Smoke continued to rise from a smoldering fire a few feet away from a mobile home on Lake Chelan. Helicopters dipped water from the lake and dumped it onto hot spots. The area is still under a mandatory evacuation order. The fire, called First Creek, is two percent contained.

Smoke fills the horizon over Seattle, contributing to a hazy sunset on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Smoke from wildfires raging in eastern Washington prompted an air quality warning for the Seattle area.

The National Weather Service said Saturday afternoon that air quality in parts of the Puget Sound region was unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Three firefighters were killed Wednesday in the wildfire near Twisp, Washington. Another 3,000 are currently on the job around the state.

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.

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

President Obama Friday declared an emergency in Washington state because of wildfires, freeing up more federal aid.

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

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.

The Oregon Transportation Commission adopted new rules Friday requiring railroads to increase the amount of information they share with state officials. Months in the making, the rules come in response to concerns over the state’s readiness for oil train spills and fires.

Emergency responders will now get immediate notification from railroads for incidents involving hazardous materials. Those notifications include information about the type, quantity and placement of any materials on the train.

More Than 875K Acres Burning Across The Northwest

Aug 21, 2015

President Obama declared a state of emergency Friday for Washington state, where several wildfires are burning uncontained.

More than 875,000 acres are now burning across the Pacific Northwest, as more than 9,200 firefighters and support personnel are working to protect homes and save lives.

Currently, the top fire in the region is the Okanogan Complex, burning in north central Washington. Fire officials said mandatory evacuations are in place for the town of Tonasket, where about 1,000 people live.

Pages