'Good' Forest Fires: Should Smokey Bear Retire?

Aug 31, 2015
A roadside sign warns of fire danger during the Beaver Creek Fire in Idaho in 2013.
Flickr photo/U.S. Department of Agriculture (CC BY 2.0)

David Hyde talks to former firefighter and environmental historian Stephen Pyne, who says we should retire Smokey Bear and light more "good" fires.

Rob Palmer, whose brother was killed in a wildfire, says the Wildland Firefighter Foundation provides support to families of the fallen.
Flickr photo/Washington Department of Natural Resources

Marcie Sillman speaks with former wildland firefighter Rob Palmer about his brother Andy Palmer. Andy Palmer died while fighting fires in California in 2008, in what became known as the Dutch Creek Incident.

Wildfires continue to burn across the state and it's hitting ranchers hard in central Washington.

More than 1,000 square miles of wildfires are burning in Washington state. In the remote Okanogan Valley in the north-central part of the state, many cattle ranchers are scrambling to save their herds.

Ranchers in Omak, Wash., have lost animals, barns, pasture and winter haystacks to the wildfires. But some people still have their cattle, and at the town's Ag Tech Feed Store, owners Monte and Laurie Andrews are trying to help keep those ranchers in business.

USFS Spends $10M Per Day On Wildfires In Oregon

Aug 28, 2015

Around the region, thick smoke has become commonplace as homes and other structures have been destroyed.

Fire managers said Friday they expect this fire season to last until through September and well into October.

Lawmakers are hoping a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate could help with mounting costs. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D) and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo (R) are working with other western senators to change the way wildfire suppression gets funded.

The bill would pay for wildfires out of a disaster account, similar to clean up from hurricanes and tornadoes.

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.

A DC-10 flies over Chelan within hours of a wildfire starting on Aug. 14. Sunbathers on holiday watched as the fire effort took hold.
Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSv09n

It was a hot Friday morning when a bolt of lightning stretched out three fingers and hit Chelan Butte.

Then a deafening clap of thunder. Then several rings of fire appeared. They would morph into huge wildfires threatening Chelan, a tourist destination in central Washington state.

Ben Brooks, a digital media manager from Fife, Washington, started taking photos. His images are striking and remarkable because of the sunbathers in the corners of his images. 

The Washington drought report for Aug. 26, 2015.
U.S. Drought Monitor

Washington is seeing fire and rain this weekend, as huge wildfires burn in Chelan and Okanogan counties and a major storm bears down on the western part of the state.

“There is a potent, juicy system headed our way,” state climatologist Nick Bond told KUOW's Marcie Sillman.

Experts testify before a U.S. Senate hearing on wildfires. The hearing was held at Seattle University.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Senator Maria Cantwell is trying to build bipartisan support for what she’s calling the Wildfire Management Act of 2015. The bill would change the way we fight fires and secure more dependable funds for fire prevention. At a public hearing this week, she heard testimony from fire experts. 

The battle continues to contain dozens of large wildfires burning across the Northwest. Firefighters are hoping for a break in the weather this weekend -- and perhaps even some rain.

The Soda Fire in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon has burned more than 400 square miles -- most of it federally-managed grazing land. Extreme temperatures fueled the Soda Fire. But farmers and ranchers are also blaming federal policy.

At high schools and universities across the Inland Northwest, student athletes have been forced to practice indoors due to dense wildfire smoke.

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

Ross Reynolds speaks with EarthFix reporter Jes Burns about the role of climate change in this year's wildfire season. You can read more of her reporting here.

This horse went missing during the wildfires and was recently reunited with its owner.
Facebook/Chelan and Okanogan Wildfires Lost and Found Pets - NDARTT

The Northwest wildfires have not only displaced people – they’ve displaced animals too.

A non-profit group from Colorado is helping people in disaster area reunite with their pets. They post photos of missing animals to a Facebook group. It reads a lot like a lost-and-found bulletin board.

Q&A: The Wildfire-Climate-Change Connection

Aug 26, 2015

Wildfire season is in full swing, with more acres burned so far than in an average year.

Here in the Northwest, we’ve been hearing daily about all the wildfires burning. Many more communities are dealing with the smoke blowing in from those fires.

Scientists are studying the connections between climate change, drought and wildfire. And policymakers and fire managers are trying to keep pace with new demands on resources as firefighting costs continue to rise. Here are some of the big questions — and answers — about the connection between climate change and wildfires.