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.

A juvenile inmate crew from Naselle Youth Camp in Southwest Washington. There were 30 kids part of the fire effort until last week, when a 16-year-old broke free, assaulted one of his supervisors and stole a gun.
Courtesy of Juvenile Rehabilitation Adminstration

Crews of juvenile inmates have been sent to fight wildfires in Washington state since the 1960s.

Until a teen escaped last week, assaulted a supervisor and then shot himself, there were 20 youth working on the fire line at the Chelan Complex Fire in central Washington. Another crew of 10 made sandwiches and meals in Okanogan County.

Unhealthy smoke continued to blanket large parts of central and eastern Washington state and north Idaho Wednesday. Some workers in north central Washington were sent home because the dense smoke was rated downright “hazardous.”

The incident command for Washington’s biggest wildfire requested a mental health team to help people in Okanogan County. A national nonprofit called Green Cross has responded to the call.

Smoke from an approaching wildfire looms over a home near Twisp, Wash., Aug. 19, 2015.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Marcie Sillman talks to Don Ashford, host at 97.5 FM  KTRT The Root about how he is using the airwaves to bring the latest wildfire information to residents of the Methow Valley.

Ross Reynolds speaks with Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer about wildfires in British Columbia and the impact there of fires across the border in Washington.