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wildfires

Ross Reynolds speaks with Alex Hymer, co-owner of Sweet River Bakery in Pateros, Washington. The bakery is about an hour south of Winthrop and Twisp, and has been serving up caffeine and internet access to wildfire evacuees from the two towns.

Flames and smoke rise on a hillside above Twisp River Road near Twisp, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

“Everything is tapped out.”

Those were the not-so-reassuring words of Peter Goldmark, Washington state lands commissioner. He spoke Thursday with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds, the day after three firefighters were killed in a wildfire near Twisp.

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

Three Forest Service firefighters killed in a wildfire threatening Twisp were in a vehicle accident before flames overran them, state and federal officials said.

The fire in the Methow Valley is one of many burning across Washington, "an unprecedented cataclysm in our state,” Gov. Jay Inslee told news media Thursday in Chelan after being briefed by fire officials.

There’s a large map of Oregon and Washington that hangs on the wall inside the dispatch center at the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) in Portland.

The agency helps manage wildfires and it uses the map to track where they’re burning and the resources dedicated to each fire. A quick glace at the map makes it pretty clear there's a lot going on.

“It’s an incredibly busy time," said Koshare Eagle, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Correspondent Anna King brings us the sound of the front lines of the First Creek fire near Lake Chelan in north central Washington state.

Fires continue to burn around Lake Chelan in central Washington with the smoke now visible from space. Firefighters have the Chelan Complex fires about 60 percent contained but they're still battling other blazes and its unclear when all fires will be under control.

This photo from Aug. 16, 2015 shows several of the wildfires being fought in Washington and Oregon.
Courtesy of NASA

From space, the West looks like it’s on fire.

In Washington state, brown smoke obscures the Cascades in these photos taken by a NASA  satellite.

Most of the fires across the West have been triggered by lightning strikes, but years of drought have turned the forests bone dry.

Sky darkens as wildfires loom ahead.
Courtesy of Heather King

This summer, Ashley Ahearn was invited to the other Washington to participate in NPR’s new storytelling lab. She and NPR’s Jeff Brady had two weeks to co-host and produce a podcast on national energy and environment issues.

“Ashley and Jeff set out to create a tone that was curious and fun and really succeeded – not an easy task when dealing with environmental stories, which can sometimes elicit an “eating your vegetables” reaction,” said Michael May, head of the NPR Storytelling Lab. 

The Chelan Complex fires have grown to more than 112,000 acres and still have Lake Chelan surrounded. The air is so filled with smoke the horizon of the lake is no longer visible from the south end.

The Chelan Complex Fire in central Washington has now topped 100,000-acres and about 3,000 people have been evacuated.

Fires continue to burn around Lake Chelan in central Washington Monday. Nearly 3,000 residents have been evacuated so far and dozens of homes have burned as firefighters struggle to gain any control over the blaze.

The Army is deploying 200 soldiers to help fight wildfires that are burning through about 1.1 million acres across the Western United States. That's according to a press release from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

"It's been nine years since wildfire was so widespread all at once that active military troops joined firefighters battling blazes," NPR's Howard Berkes reports. "Four military C-130 cargo planes are also in use as air tankers."

As ash fell Sunday on downtown Chelan, Washington, a nearby fruit packing cooperative that called itself the world's largest stood in ruins. It's one of dozens of businesses and homes destroyed in the Reach Complex fires.

Oregon Becomes No. 1 Wildfire Fighting Priority

Aug 16, 2015

As wildfires continue to spread, officials say the state's resources are stretched thin. Oregon is the No. 1 national priority, said Koshare Eagle with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

"We have a limited number of resources, and all of the resources are 100 percent engaged and committed on these incidents," said Eagle. "We don't have additional planes and helicopters to call in."

Four separate wildfires have burned together in Central Washington, claiming several structures including homes and commercial properties near Lake Chelan. The fires have led to evacuations and road closures, and left nearly 10,000 people without power. 

inciweb.nwcg.gov

Hundreds of people fled wildfires that surrounded the city of Chelan after multiple lightning strikes on Friday, emergency officials said.

Residents and visitors watched dramatic scenes during the day as aerial tankers and helicopters dropped fire retardant and water in attempts to stop lines of fire advancing from the south and northeast.

The military is being called in to help corral one of the numerous large wildfires burning in the Northwest.

ODOT Reopens Long Stretch Of I-84

Aug 13, 2015

A section of Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon closed for several hours Thursday due to nearby wildfires, according to a release from the Oregon Department of Transportation. At one point, the highway was closed for more than 160 miles between Ontario and Pendleton.

Three fires in Eastern Oregon continued to grow in size Thursday, and forced immediate evacuations in some areas. The fires grew due to high winds, low humidity and hot temperatures.

Investigators Say Lawnmower Sparked Stouts Creek Fire

Aug 13, 2015

Fire investigators said Thursday that southern Oregon's Stouts Creek Fire seems to have started by a lawnmower used in violation of local orders.

Nearly 1,600 firefighters are battling the blaze, due east of Canyonville and north of Grants Pass, which has burned more than 23,000 acres. It has filled the air above Crater Lake National Park with a heavy haze of smoke.

The Wolverine Fire in north central Washington has burned up more than 30,000 acres. Hotshot crews are now trying to save a small Lutheran religious retreat center called Holden Village near Lake Chelan.

Fire crews are starting back burns from helicopters and are digging hand lines to try and slow the Wolverine wildfire in north-central Washington state.

Northwest forests are extremely dry, but so far the wildfires haven't been as bad as in 2014. Fire officials count 79 large fires at this point a year ago. This season, there have been 65 fires of at least 100 acres.

"Even more telling, last year at this date, we'd burned 758,000 acres in Oregon and Washington," said Tom Knappenberger, spokesperson for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. "And this year, we're at 237,000, even though the conditions are a lot more volatile out there."

Vacationers are cancelling their trips and residents are preparing for wildfire in a remote northeast Washington tourist village that is accessible only by hiking trail, seaplane and ferry.

Update 6:15 p.m.: Officials fighting a fire near the town of Roosevelt, Washington, ordered residents of about 25 homes to evacuate immediately Wednesday evening. The mandatory evacuation order comes after the Columbia River Gorge fire grew to more than 17,000 acres Wednesday.

No injuries have been reported. The Klickitat County Sheriff's Office upped the evacuation order from Level 1 to Level 3 after the wind-driven fire in sage and grass lands kicked up Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters are still on the scene of a quick-moving blaze that burned five homes in rural Mason County, Washington, on Friday. The destruction is evidence of dry conditions even on the west side of the Cascades.

The Wolverine Creek Fire in northeast Washington state has grown by 9,000 acres since Sunday. It’s now at 25,634 acres on the northwest side of Lake Chelan.

Stouts Creek Wildfire Expands Rapidly In Southern Oregon

Jul 31, 2015

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown invoked the state's Emergency Conflagration Act Thursday evening as the Stouts Creek Wildfire encroached on homes in Southwest Oregon.

The wildfire began Thursday afternoon and reached nearly 6,000 acres by the end of the day. The fire threatened about 50 homes 11 miles east of Canyonville in Douglas County. An additional 300 homes are at risk as hot and dry conditions are expected to fuel the blaze Friday.

When it comes to watering your lawn during drought and wildfire season, what’s the sweet spot between water conservation and fire hazard?

The Fish Creek Fire in Interior Alaska isn't much to look at. It's about 7,500 acres in size, sitting about an hour south of Fairbanks near the twisty Tanana River. The main fire front — the made-for-TV part, with torching trees and pulses of orange heat — flamed out more than a week ago, leaving behind a quiet charred landscape.

The massive Blue Creek Fire near Walla Walla, Washington, is putting the city’s drinking water supply in jeopardy. The fire is burning along the area’s watershed line as fire crews work around the clock to contain it.

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