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wildfires

This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. ET:

The small town of Pateros in north central Washington has emptied out as wildfires burning in the area destroyed as many as 100 homes.

The roughly 650 residents of Pateros — as well as a nearby hospital — were evacuated late Thursday.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the fire had grown to 168,000 acres by midday Friday.

The next few days will be critical for crews battling more than a dozen wildfires in the Northwest. Forecasters have issued a Red Flag Warning for a large swath of eastern Oregon and Washington.

As wildfires continue to blaze around the Northwest, both Oregon and Washington have issued emergency declarations for fire-ravaged portions of their state. Affected are 20 of Washington's eastern counties and central Oregon, where most of the state's 13 active fires are burning.

Flickr Photo/US Department of Agriculture (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks to Janet Pearce about recent wildfires in the state. Pearce does community outreach and environmental education for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources about the wildfires in Eastern Washington.

Then, Reynolds interviews Michael Fishbaugher, who was evacuated from his home last week as a wildfire swept within half a mile of his house.

SPRAGUE RIVER, Ore. -- The Moccasin Hill wildfire has burned about 2,500 acres and destroyed up to 20 homes, forcing residents to seek shelter while waiting for federal aid to arrive.

Red Cross volunteers set up in the community center to help the victims.

Whistler’s Trading Post, one of a few stores in town, extended its hours and expanded its operations, serving food, taking in horses and providing overnight shelter for displaced residents.

Wildfires continue to rage around the Northwest. and forecasters say weather conditions are ripe for more fires to develop in the coming days. 

The Northwest is gearing up for a heat wave starting this weekend that could push temperatures into the triple digits in parts of the region. That could make things difficult for firefighters battling flames on the front lines.

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.

Hot and dry conditions are expected to create above-normal wildfire conditions in parts of the Northwest this summer. While relatively few people will have to flee the flames, many more will experience a side effect of the fires: thick, acrid smoke.

Firefighters in Central Oregon braced for warm temperatures and gusty winds Monday as they continued to battle the Two Bulls fire burning west of Bend.

About 50 homes remained under evacuation notices Monday. Several area schools were also closed due to the fire.

The fire is estimated to be 6,180 acres. Incident commanders say the fire is burning in heavy timber and brush.

And they say although it’s only June, the fuel the fire is consuming is as dry as if it were July.

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

Wildfire season officially starts on April 15 in Washington state. Oregon and Idaho have rolling starts to fire precaution rules depending on local conditions.

A new national strategy for preventing and fighting wildfires has been announced by the federal government in response to increasingly costly firefighting seasons in the West.

Rather than waiting to address wildfires until after they ignite, the new strategy emphasizes restoring forests and rangelands while stabilizing funding.

The view from atop Conejo Mountain is postcard-worthy. It's 360 degrees of Southern California: mountains, coastline, cookie-cutter homes.

But if you look closer, the greens, blues and browns of Conejo are charred away, burnt a charcoal black.

Mike Lindbery, a captain with the Ventura County Fire Department, was here on this mountain last spring when a wildfire raced up the hillside on its way to torching more than 24,000 acres.

Fighting wildfires would be funded more like hurricane and flood response under a proposal out of the Northwest that won President Obama's endorsement.

Flickr Photo/US Department of Agriculture (CC-BY-NC-ND)

It's been a tough fire season for the elite group of firefighters known as hotshots; and not because of the fires.

Hotshots are used to the hard work. They work 14 days in a row, then get three days off, then repeat the cycle over and over again until winter finally puts the nation's fires to bed. They're deployed throughout the West, never knowing where they'll be sent until the last minute. They work with their hands, using chainsaws and shovels. Sometimes, they have to work through grief, as they did this summer when a fire near Phoenix, Arizona, swallowed 19 hotshots in one gulp.

The same weather patterns that are making the Rim Fire a challenge for firefighters in California have been moving up through parts of the Northwest. Specifically, through central Idaho. Fire managers say the forests there are ripe for fire, and more lightning is in the forecast this week.

The fact that massive fires are raging both in California and in Idaho is no coincidence, according to Robyn Broyles. She's with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

Hundreds of firefighters are "digging trenches, clearing brush and starting back blazes to keep a wildfire raging north of Yosemite National Park out of several mountain hamlets," The Associated Press writes Monday morning in its latest update on the huge "Rim Fire" that is threatening some of the power and water services to the city of San Francisco.

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.

Flickr Photo/Bejan

A burn ban issued by the Department of Natural Resources in late July has been partially lifted in Western Washington. Recreational fires in approved fire pits on DNR protected lands — such as state, county, municipal or other campgrounds — are now allowed west of the Cascades. Other outdoor burning is still banned in Western Washington.

Flickr Photo/Bejan

The Department of Natural Resources issued an updated burn ban to include all lands protected by the DNR in Washington state. The ban will be in effect until September 30 and includes prescribed burns and campfires, even in developed campgrounds under state, local or private control.

Federal land managers have banned the use of exploding targets on public lands in the Northwest. The concern is wildfires.

Fire investigators suspect exploding targets sparked at least half a dozen wildfires in Washington and Idaho over the past year. The chemical explosives give target shooters instant feedback that they've hit their mark from long range.

How Wildfires Get Out Of Control

Jul 1, 2013
Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Natural Resources

  Nineteen firefighters died fighting a wildfire in Arizona yesterday. The Arizona forestry department is still investigating how the crew died, but many suspect that the blaze was just too quick and unpredictable. Washington state has also lost firefighters to fast spreading wildfires in the past. In 2001, four firefighters died in the Thirty Mile Fire in the Okanogan National Forest. Ross Reynolds talks to Peter Goldmark, the Commissioner of Public Lands at the Department of Natural Resources, about how wildfires get out of control so quickly.

Flickr Photo/US Department of Agriculture (CC-BY-NC-ND)

 State officials are predicting another challenging wildfire season this year. Fighting those fires may be more difficult due to the federal sequester, which slashed nearly 8 percent from the Forest Service’s budget. Ross Reynolds interviews Washington State’s Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.

Several forest fires are already burning in Western Washington and crews are mopping up a big one in central Oregon. There were also two grass fires that burned near Middleton, Idaho just west of Boise, this past weekend.

Dry winds and above average temperatures predicted this summer and fall, have fire managers preparing for an earlier than usual season.

A massive fire that burned 61 homes in Central Washington was likely caused by Department of Transportation contractors. That’s the upshot of a report issued Monday by Washington’s Department of Natural Resources.

The aptly named Taylor Bridge Fire started August 13 right after transportation contractors did some welding work on that bridge. It happened near the mountain town of Cle Elum.

Flickr photo/Washington Department of Natural Resources

Dryer than normal conditions prompted Washington Governor Chris Gregoire to declare a state of emergency and extend a ban on outdoor fires. Outdoor burning is banned in all counties until October 15. The state is experiencing a rare stretch of dry weather.

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