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wildfires

Oregon fire officials are turning to National Guard troops to help contain wildfires across the Northwest.

More firefighters continue to arrive on the front lines of the nation’s highest priority wildfire. It’s the 400 square mile complex of lightning-sparked fires near the Canadian border in north central Washington dubbed the Okanogan Complex.

'Heart's Home': Finding Shelter From Twisp Fire Amid Last Year's Wreckage

Aug 25, 2015
A wildfire burns behind a home on Twisp River Road early Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 in Twisp, Wash.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

When wildfire blazed through Meg Donohue’s property on Texas Creek last year, only a small cabin remained standing. It became a refuge last week when flames forced her to flee her new home 10 miles away in Twisp.

Donohue, owner of Blue Star Coffee Roasters, told KUOW’s Marcie Sillman on Tuesday that her return to Texas Creek was bittersweet.

Methow Valley News staffer Darla Hussey took this photograph from a location a half-mile south of Twisp.
Methow Valley News photo/Darla Hussey

When residents of the Methow Valley want updates on the fires in their area, many of them have turned to the Facebook page of the local paper, the Methow Valley News.

Todd Quinn carries one of his surviving goats Saturday after a wildfire swept through his ranch the night before.
The Seattle Times/Sy Bean

Sy Bean is a 23-year-old photojournalist working as an intern for The Seattle Times. Some of his recent photos of the fires in Washington have been featured on the front page. One in particular, of Chelan-area resident Todd Quinn, stood out to him. Sy shared this story of how it came about.

 The Goodell fire burns near a power line that transmits electricity from Seattle City Light’s three dams on the Skagit River to customers in Seattle and beyond.
Seattle City Light photo/Cody Watson

Eight fires have burned more than 4,000 acres in Washington’s North Cascades. The largest of the fires has damaged transmission lines, leading Seattle City Light to shut down power generation at three dams on the Skagit River.

The utility is losing $100,000 in revenue each day that the lines are down. Conditions have remained unsafe for repair crews to work on the power lines.

Q: Have the fires damaged the dams?

Weather Could Cause Trouble For Washington Fire Crews

Aug 25, 2015

Weather is expected to cause more problems Monday for fires in north central Washington. The Okanogan Complex is burning more than 250,000 acres.

The fight against the huge wildfires in north central Washington has turned a corner. Fire bosses have even started using words like “optimistic” and “great progress.”

Firefighters are gaining the upper-hand in containing the Canyon Creek Complex fires. But that’s not much relief to the wildfire’s worst-hit community. So far, 39 homes near John Day, Oregon, have been destroyed, along with around 50 barns, stores and other structures.

Escaped Juvenile Inmate Expected To Survive

Aug 24, 2015

The Chelan County Sheriff's Office said a juvenile inmate who escaped from the fire lines in north central Washington and shot himself in the head is expected to survive.

Firefighters from Salem, Oregon, mop up hotspots on Judy Doran McBride's ranch near Twisp this weekend.
Courtesy Judy Doran McBride

Wildfire was roaring toward their 640-acre ranch near Twisp, but Judy Doran McBride and her husband stood their ground.

“If the fire comes our way, we’re going to stay and defend our home,” McBride told KUOW’s Marcie Sillman.

Bonnie Milligan has a big voice.

And in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival musical, Head Over Heels, she does a lot of belting. That’s the loud, powerful, high singing associated with performers like Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

The problem is, it’s been a smoky summer in the Pacific Northwest. Wildfires have had communities from Eastern Washington to Portland to Northern California gasping through days and weeks of poor air quality.

And belting and smoke don’t mix.

Canyon Creek Complex Moves Away From Homes

Aug 24, 2015

As firefighters start to gain control of Canyon Creek Complex, the blaze is moving away from homes and into wilderness.

Heavy Smoke Lowers Chelan Air Quality, Helps Firefight

Aug 24, 2015

Fires in north central Washington are continuing to threaten homes and buildings. Thousands of people are still under evacuation orders. But calming winds have helped slow the fires’ progress.

Smokejumpers from the McCall base in Idaho prepare to drop into the Payette National Forest, Idaho, on July 2, 2014.
U.S. Forest Service Photo/Kari Greer

Wildland firefighters come in all forms: There are seasonal workers, Army reservists – and prisoners who fight fires for a few dollars a day.

And then there are the smokejumpers who parachute into the heart of fire country.

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

The massive, deadly wildfire burning in Okanogan County has become the largest blaze in state history, a fire spokesman said Monday.

Air quality is classified as good Monday morning and visibility improved in cities along Interstate 84 and throughout the Willamette Valley after smoke from numerous fires funneled down the Columbia River Gorge.

The smoke moved in quickly. Satellite imagery from MODIS shows that it took about 24 hours for Oregon and Washington to be completely covered.

The Canyon Creek Complex near John Day is still growing, but shelters are closing up and people are heading home after days away.

By Sunday morning, the blaze had grown to more than 69,000 acres. Fire officials say a lot of that was strategic – they’re burning land with controlled blazes to funnel the fire into an area that was burned three years ago.

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office says 39 homes have been destroyed in the fire so far.

Still, many evacuation alerts have been downgraded and people are returning to their homes after days away.

For Fire Crews in Chelan, Safety Is Top Priority

Aug 23, 2015

Fire crews Saturday had an easier time with wind in North Central Washington. That meant it was easier to fight the Chelan Complex. It also meant the area had unhealthy levels of smoke.

Smoke continued to rise from a smoldering fire a few feet away from a mobile home on Lake Chelan. Helicopters dipped water from the lake and dumped it onto hot spots. The area is still under a mandatory evacuation order. The fire, called First Creek, is two percent contained.

Smoke fills the horizon over Seattle, contributing to a hazy sunset on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Smoke from wildfires raging in eastern Washington prompted an air quality warning for the Seattle area.

The National Weather Service said Saturday afternoon that air quality in parts of the Puget Sound region was unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Three firefighters were killed Wednesday in the wildfire near Twisp, Washington. Another 3,000 are currently on the job around the state.

Methow Valley ranchers and their horses fled fire in Central Washington this week. They hauled the horses out in convoys of trailers. Now one herd of 15 horses has been evacuated to the a ranch outside of Wenatchee.

Wildfires are burning across nearly 600 square miles of Washington state and the forecast today calls for strong winds in the most affected areas.

President Obama Friday declared an emergency in Washington state because of wildfires, freeing up more federal aid.

As firefighters work to contain the Canyon Creek Complex wildfire, high winds and hot temperatures mean the fire keeps growing.

Wind Could Shift Direction Of Chelan Complex Fires

Aug 21, 2015

Wind is continuing to whip up wildfires burning in north central Washington state. After a dry cold front blew through this morning, another strong surge of wind Friday could cause trouble.

More Than 875K Acres Burning Across The Northwest

Aug 21, 2015

President Obama declared a state of emergency Friday for Washington state, where several wildfires are burning uncontained.

More than 875,000 acres are now burning across the Pacific Northwest, as more than 9,200 firefighters and support personnel are working to protect homes and save lives.

Currently, the top fire in the region is the Okanogan Complex, burning in north central Washington. Fire officials said mandatory evacuations are in place for the town of Tonasket, where about 1,000 people live.

File photo of softball and mitt
Flickr Photo/Hillarie (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Why should the rest of us care whether Amazon employees love or hate their jobs? How can we make wildfires less destructive? What are we teaching our kids when we tell them to throw a little league game to win a tournament?

Bill Radke debates the week’s news with New York Times writer David Streitfeld, Geekwire's Todd Bishop, former GOP leader Bill Finkbeiner, state Senator Michael Baumgartner, former firefighter Kyle Dickman and journalist Erica C. Barnett.

Fires burning across Washington state have grown to about 390,000 acres and killed three firefighters. Now elected officials are asking the Obama administration for federal money to help fight them.

Tom Zbyszewski is seen in a family photo. His father, Richard, called it one of his favorite photos of his son.
Courtesy of Zbyszewski family

The three firefighters who were killed Wednesday in the Okanagon Complex fire in north-central Washington have been identified.

They are Tom Zbyszewski, a 20-year-old student at Whitman College; Andrew Zajac, a 26-year-old Forest Service worker stationed in Winthrop; and Richard Wheeler, 31. The three men were part of a five-person engine crew that got into a collision.

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