wildfires | KUOW News and Information

wildfires

Updated 10:40 p.m. ET

Firefighters in California's Ventura and Santa Barbara counties find themselves still locked in a desperate struggle with what has become the fifth-largest wildfire in modern state history. The Thomas Fire, which for a time Sunday was ratcheted down just 10 percent contained, has ticked back upward to 20 percent containment.

Updated at 10 p.m. ET

Driven by fierce Santa Ana winds, four intense fires near Los Angeles grew to engulf more than 115,000 acres Thursday, and officials say residents should continue to expect dangerous fire conditions, as both strong winds and very dry conditions persist.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

Firefighters were struggling to contain four wildfires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, after a blaze broke out Wednesday morning within the LA city limits. The wildfires have burned a total of more than 100,000 acres, threatened more than 12,000 homes and other buildings and shut down 265 schools.

The Historic Multnomah Falls Lodge opened its doors to visitors Wednesday for the first time since the Eagle Creek Fire prompted its closure in September — peak visitor season.

Remnants of the fire remain, leaving popular areas off-limits to visitors including the lower viewing platform and trails surrounding the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon.

Autumn rains have washed away the smoke of the summer wildfires. But Congress remains embroiled in a high-stakes environmental debate over how to reduce the growing threat of catastrophic blazes in Western forests and rangelands.

Lawmakers are under more pressure to act after a wildfire season that was particularly harrowing. Nearly 9 million acres – an area about the size of New Jersey and Connecticut combined – burned. Intense smoke hit many of the West’s major cities, including Denver, the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland.

October's California wine country wildfires damaged more than 30 wineries. Now, the Northwest wine industry and wine drinkers are stepping up to with their wallets to help.

Burn scars left after major wildfires can look pretty bleak.  But take a couple million steps back and you’ll find those fires aren’t keeping up with the natural filling-in of forest vegetation.

New research out of Oregon State University makes the case that considering the big picture is important to our understanding of fire in our region.

The death toll from a series of blazes in Northern California has reached at least 31 people — making it the deadliest week for wildfires in the state's history. Officials are warning that more deaths are likely.

"We're moving into a recovery phase," Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said. "That is the reality part of it."

Speaking late Thursday, Giordano said that two more bodies had been recovered as search teams moved into areas where people had been reported missing in the wake of the fires.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

The U.S. Postal Service hasn't abandoned Santa Rosa, Calif., where hundreds of people are coping with total losses of their homes from an explosive wildfire. The scene in Santa Rosa has been compared with an apocalypse — but that didn't stop a mail truck from making the rounds in at least one devastated neighborhood this week.

Nicole and Ben Veum had been waiting and waiting for their baby to arrive. Nicole's due date came and went. Her doctor called her in to the hospital — Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital — to induce labor. That was Friday.

"So we were very excited at that point," she said. "And then day after day after day, with not a whole lot of progress."

They tried three different ways of inducing labor. Then, on the third day, with the third attempt, it started working.

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

At least 15 people have died in intense wildfires that have destroyed thousands of buildings in Northern California, where firefighters are battling 17 large blazes in the state's wine country, including Napa and Sonoma counties. Together, they've burned 115,000 acres, according to Cal Fire.

Updated at 8:08 p.m. ET.

As many as 10 people have died in wildfires that erupted in Northern California over the weekend, forcing residents in the wine country north of San Francisco to flee as homes went up in flames. At least 1,500 structures have been destroyed and 20,000 people evacuated, according to member station KQED.

Some insurance companies are choosing not to renew policies in wildfire-prone areas of the inland Northwest. That’s sending home owners scrambling to find new coverage for their properties.

Geologists for the state of Oregon are warning of the risk of major landslides in parts of the Columbia River Gorge that were hit by wildfires this year.

A new report released Thursday focuses on areas of the Gorge that are highly susceptible to landslides—which also happen to overlap with some of the areas hit by this year’s wildfires.

In a sign that the wildfire threat is receding, hundreds of Washington National Guard soldiers are being demobilized and sent home over the next 48 hours. They were activated to help fight wildfires earlier this month.

Don’t expect to take in the stellar views from the top of Angel’s Rest anytime soon.

That's just one of popular hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge that lies inside the perimeter of the Eagle Creek wildfire (see complete list below).

Rachel Pawlitz of the Gorge National Scenic Area says some of the best-known trails in the Gorge – including Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls, Larch Mountain and, of course, Eagle Creek – will be off limits at least until spring.

When wildfires are burning around the state, it’s hard for the Oregon Department of Forestry to focus on anything else.

During a recent meeting of the Oregon Board of Forestry, state forester Peter Daugherty repeatedly explained how the agency has had to put a lot of routine forest management work — including fire prevention — on hold this summer.

"Pretty much all my time over the past month has been focused on the fire season," Daugherty said.

As the smoke settles, people are asking how to heal the Northwest’s forests. What’s to be done with the blackened trees, spread across hillsides?

One sore spot for people is the Columbia River Gorge.

In an effort to help rehabilitate the land, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has introduced a bill that would expedite a controversial logging practice in the National Scenic Area: salvage logging.

The Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge continues to burn, though not nearly as wildly as it did a week ago.

At a Monday night meeting in Troutdale, fire and law enforcement officials briefed members of the public about how firefighters are tackling the roughly 34,000-acre blaze.

"We've developed a strategy that we're just going to have to let it burn," said Rick Miller, operations section chief on the Eagle Creek Fire.

One of Boeing Defense subsidiary Insitu's 45-pound high-tech unmanned aircraft joined the fight against the Eagle Creek fire this weekend.

On a clear day, Jocelyn Bentley-Prestwich can see Mount Adams from the vineyard where she works in Hood River. But lately, she’s had difficulty seeing to the end of her property line. 

With the Eagle Creek Fire burning along the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River has been cloaked in heavy smoke for more than a week. 

As wildfires rage across the Pacific Northwest, more than just people are displaced from their homes. Animals in the wild are also feeling the effects of the flames.

More and more, wildfires are changing conservation strategies for threatened and endangered animals in the region, especially as a warming climate lengthens fire season.

“We essentially assume that we’re going to have earlier fire seasons. They’re going to last longer. And they will typically be more severe,” said Jeff Krupka, field office manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Central Washington.

Of all the resources that hang in the balance as firefighters attempt to slow the growth of the Eagle Creek Fire, one stands out: the Bull Run watershed.

It’s 150 square miles of hemlock, fir and cedar trees just south of the Columbia River Gorge. The forest soaks up rain and fills the lakes and reservoirs that provide drinking water for close to 1 million people in Portland, Gresham, Beaverton and Tigard.

Emergency aid to help victims of Hurricane Harvey now also includes additional money to fight wildfires in Oregon and other western states. 

The U.S. Senate on Thursday added provisions replenishing the U.S. Forest Service's budget for the rest of this fire season. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said it should amount to more than $100 million in additional aid. He said the money will ensure that the agency won't have to cannibalize programs aimed at making fires less likely to burn in the first place — something he said has frequently happened in the past.

Federal workers say they are trying their best to keep the water flowing and the power going at Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River Gorge despite the wildfires.

Climate Change Is Making Smoky, Unhealthy Air More Common

Sep 7, 2017

On Wednesday, as smoke blotted out the sun across the city of Portland, about a dozen people were hiding out from the smoky heat in the air conditioned Hollywood Senior Center – one of the county's designated cooling centers for those needing relief on the hottest days of the year.

Wearing an electronic air filter around her neck, Jennifer Young, who works at the center, flipped on the larger, high-efficiency particulate  filter she brought from home to purify her work-space air.

He's survived a stabbing, a kidnapping and now a wildfire.

Oh, and he's a fish.

The Eagle Creek Fire has burned more than 30,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge, torching trees and threatening homes.

As flames from the Eagle Creek Fire pushed closer to the Columbia River, Oregon officials had a quick decision to make.

The Fish and Wildlife hatcheries in the fire’s path housed six million fish, mostly chinook and coho salmon and steelhead.

And some of those fish were in trouble.

“Their water source, which at the time was Tanner Creek at Bonneville Hatchery, was literally engulfed in flames. The hatchery intake on the creek got clogged up, and we weren’t able to get water to the fish,” said Ken Loffink, a spokesman for ODFW.

Washington National Guard soldiers and airmen are being called up to help with the rash of Northwest wildfires. Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Saturday because of wildfires, which cleared the way for the activation of the Guard. 

The forest fires raging in the Columbia River Gorge are unlikely to disturb adult coho salmon right now. But Northwest tribal fishers are worried about what will happen in the fall.

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