Environment

KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

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.

The Oregon Transportation Commission adopted new rules Friday requiring railroads to increase the amount of information they share with state officials. Months in the making, the rules come in response to concerns over the state’s readiness for oil train spills and fires.

Emergency responders will now get immediate notification from railroads for incidents involving hazardous materials. Those notifications include information about the type, quantity and placement of any materials on the train.

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.

It wasn't all in your head — last month was hotter than ever before.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that July had the highest average temperatures in records since 1880.

And it's not just in the U.S. Average July temperatures around the world set heat records too, NPR's Kat Chow reports.

She tells our Newscast unit that:

"This confirms what NASA and a Japanese agency found using separate data.

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

Like thousands of other college students in the West, Tom Zbyszewski relished summers on the fire lines - it was outdoor work that paid, that was important, that gave him a little swagger when he returned to school in the fall.

One more week, and Zbyszewski, a 20-year-old physics major with an acting bent, would have been back at Whitman College, telling stories.

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.

Food Waste And Beef Fat Will Be Making Airplanes Soar

Aug 20, 2015

What do beef tallow and manure have in common with t-shirts and pine needles? Turns out you can make high-quality, low-carbon transportation fuel with all of them. A growing number of biofuel producers are teaming up with farms, meatpackers and waste management companies to tap gassy waste to meet new demand for renewable jet fuel and diesel for vehicles.

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.

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