wildfires | KUOW News and Information

wildfires

When a fast-moving, erratic wildfire ignites, firefighters right away try to save homes and steer the flames away from life and property. But experts say the real danger often occurs in the hours after the big wall of flames rips through.

Spokane, Washington, the state’s second largest city, found itself surrounded by flames Monday after high winds and heat Sunday caused the rapid spread of three separate wildfires.

In southeast Washington, the Range 12 Fire is finally out. But now there’s 176,600 acres of black. And it’s roasted much of the valuable habitat on the Hanford Reach National Monument.

A bipartisan coalition of Western U.S. lawmakers has renewed a call to change how the federal government pays to put out big forest fires. Currently, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management divert money from fire prevention and other programs to pay firefighting costs during bad fire years.

More than 100 people attended a Forest Service community meeting in John Day Tuesday to discuss last summer’s Canyon Creek Fire.

Many residents in Grant County still have questions or bitterness about the massive Canyon Creek fire that destroyed 43 homes. Agency leaders said the meeting was necessary for the community to heal, and they wanted to give residents a chance to voice questions. And people did have questions.

More than 20 fires were sparked in eastern Oregon over the weekend — mostly in Baker and Malheur counties.

Though only four of those fires were significant in size, said Robyn Broyles with the National Interagency Fire Center, a majority were caused by lightning strikes throughout the Northwest.

"There's quite a bit of lightning that came in to our general area that came up from the southwest and spread northwest coming across Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon," said Broyles. "Essentially a lightning pattern came across the corners of those states."

It's a warm, sunny morning at the Homestead National Monument of America in southeastern Nebraska. A burn crew dressed in yellow and green flame-resistant clothing is about to set a patch of tall-grass prairie on fire — on purpose.

Sunset on Sept. 13, 2012 in Seatac. The deep red color was caused by smoke from numerous forest fires buring in the Cascade Mountains.
Flickr Photo/Brett Curtiss CC BY 2.0 http://bit.ly/2au4fiI

It wasn’t the aroma of Tacoma on Tuesday.

It was the smoky smell of Seattle.

Not like barbecue, though. More like a light tree fumée.

Tuesday’s high winds set two major new fires raging in Washington state. One ripped across grassy eastern Washington flats near Moses Lake and the other up a steep canyon near the Snake River and Pullman.

The Range 12 Fire in southeast Washington has destroyed some of the most sensitive shrub steppe habitat in the nation.

Officials from the Hanford nuclear reservation and Energy Northwest have been meeting with fire managers in southeast Washington state Tuesday. The nearby Range 12 Fire has grown to more than 177,000 acres and high winds are predicted this evening.

Tri-Cities area residents woke up to a blood-red sunrise. The Range 12 Fire in southeast Washington has burned 175,000 acres and is 10 percent contained.

Crews Say Drones Hamper Firefighting Efforts

Aug 1, 2016

A wildfire in southeast Washington has grown to 70,000 acres between Yakima and the Tri-Cities. More than 100 crew members are working to keep the Range 12 Fire from spreading.

But they say something could slow that work down: drones.

Wildfire Season Blazes Into The Northwest

Jul 31, 2016

Several wildfires have broken out throughout Washington and Oregon this weekend after high heat, low humidity, and strong winds picked up.

Updated 9:40 p.m. ET with evacuees being allowed back

Authorities are permitting the return of many of the 20,000 residents who were ordered to evacuate areas threatened by the Sand Fire north of Los Angeles.

This year’s fire season has had a slow start. The winter’s thicker snowpack and cooler temperatures this summer have helped keep large fires at bay, said Carol Connolly with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

"Part of the difference is the weather," Connolly explained. "We haven’t had the hot dry conditions that we’ve experienced the last few years. We have not had the lightning activity."

A plan to effectively remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list has been successfully added to a larger U.S. House appropriations bill.

The House voted to attach the amendment to legislation funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior.

Editor’s note: Anna King’s reports from the 2015 wildfires in Washington state earned national recognition in breaking news and crisis journalism. We asked our Richland correspondent to reflect on fire, safety, and what’s changed over the years. --Phyllis Fletcher

The Northwest saw several red flag warnings and fast-burning fires over the long holiday weekend. And in the last several years, regional firefighters say they are seeing bigger fires that threaten more homes.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to the Wassen Pond Fire in Wasco County.

The fire has burned about 300 acres and is threatening nearby homes and structures.

A level-2 pre-evacuation notice was issued Monday to some residents.

The emergency declaration will allow additional resources to support the effort to contain the fire.

This story has been updated.

A wildfire that broke out near Cle Elum Saturday has been fully contained according to the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office. The 50-acre fire caused several homes to be evacuated and threatened Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

Fireworks aren’t the only thing firefighters have to worry about this Fourth of July weekend. They have a big battle on their hands and have been bringing in extra crews and equipment to posts east of the Cascades.

Five years of drought, 100-plus temperatures and gusting winds: Firefighters in Southern California are facing dangerous conditions as they battle two day-old fires east of Los Angeles.

And they're not alone. Wildfires are raging in several Western states as a heat wave grips the region.

The Reservoir Fire and the Fish Fire in Los Angeles County, both of which started Monday, have burned thousands of acres each. More than 750 homes have been evacuated, the LA County Fire Department says.

Firefighters on the fire line at the Blue Creek Fire, located east of Walla Walla, Wash. It began on July 20, 2015 and consumed an estimated 6,004 acres.
Flickr Photo/USDAgov (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/wWtrYh

Bill Radke speaks with Ben Hale, a new wildfire fighter with the Washington state Department of Natural Resources, about why he wanted to become a wildfire fighter. This will be Hale's first season fighting wildfires. 

A 1,900 acre fire near Lake Billy Chinook continues to threaten more than 900 homes. Officials said the fire is 30 percent contained.

The Akawana fire is within a few miles of a subdivision northeast of Sisters in Jefferson County, and it's triggered a preliminary evacuation notice for residents. Residents in the area have been asked to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

The lighting-caused blaze is currently burning in heavy brush and ponderosa pine on state forestland.

If you're at the Gorge Amphitheatre in central Washington and there's a large wildfire -- you might want to consider missing the next set of your favorite band. Just on Sunday, a 600-acre wildfire raged about three miles from the main stage where Alabama Shakes and The Cure were playing.

The out-of-control wildfire burning in northern Alberta has fire officials south of the border casting a nervous eye toward the summer.

The latest news that the Canadian blaze has moved into oil fields after destroying parts of an entire city comes as the U.S. Forest Service issues its annual wildfire forecast for the Western United States Tuesday.

An air tanker drops red fire retardant on a wildfire near Twisp, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.
FLICKR PHOTO/BEN BROOKS (CC BY-SA 2.0) HTTP://BIT.LY/1KSV09N

State officials are investigating the causes of two forest fires northeast of Seattle.

With no lightning reported in the Oso or Gold Bar areas where the fires started, officials suspect they were caused by humans, either accidentally or intentionally.

A massive wildfire in Alberta, Canada, now extends more than 600 square miles, and officials are concerned that it could double in size on Saturday because of windy, dry weather conditions.

The Alberta government says some 500 firefighters are fighting the fire in and around Fort McMurray, in addition to 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers.

Days after they fled a powerful wildfire, more than 80,000 people who live in and around Fort McMurray are told that "it will not be a matter of days" before they can return home. Gusting winds have helped the fires spread farther, and more evacuation plans are being formed.

Pages