Disasters and Accidents

Disasters and Accidents

Len DIaz, Washington Interagency Incident Management Team. Crews monitor burnout operations in the area of the Colockum Tarps Fire

With wildfires still raging across the Northwest, fire managers are turning to private fire-fighting crews in increasing numbers. One private industry group says private contractors are responsible for a surprising 40 percent of firefighters on the ground in the region.

Both the U.S. Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry said that 40 percent figure sounds about right. But the shift didn't happen overnight.

Rogue River Re-Opens As Fire Threat Diminishes

Aug 12, 2013
InciWeb. Firefighters working on the Big Windy Fire raft down the Rogue River.

Rafters can once again try their luck shooting the rapids on a popular southern Oregon river.

The Rogue River re-opened to pleasure-seekers Monday after weekend rains tamped down some wildfires in the area. The nearly two-week closure was a major economic hit to businesses that specialize in river recreation.

Pete Wallstrom owns Momentum River Expeditions. He says his first guided trip down the Rogue won't be until Thursday as staffers try to get hold of people who canceled their trips.

InciWeb. Lightning at the Mile Post 10 Fire

Torrents of mud and debris have closed three roads near Wenatchee in central Washington. The landslides were caused by thunderstorms on Sunday, along with wildfire damage. The mudflows have hampered firefighting efforts on the Mile Post 10 fire, which has grown to 6,000 acres since Friday.

Some residents and fire trucks were stranded. Rick Isaacson is an information officer for Chelan Fire District 1. He says it’s been a pretty tough couple of weeks. “If I lived up there I’d be on vacation in Hawaii for about three weeks. And just leave it at that. If I could.”

Colin Fogarty / Northwest News Network

Much of Oregon's population would face extended fuel shortages, natural gas outages and blackouts after a catastrophic earthquake. That according to a seismic risk study re-released by the state.

But there's pushback from the energy companies put under the spotlight.

The Blue Mountain Eagle. The view from the Grant County Regional Airport of the Grouse Mountain Fire burning near John Day, Oregon.

Nearly a dozen wildfires continue to send up plumes of smoke across the Northwest.

Some of the large fires are under control including the Colockum Tarps fire at about 81,000 acres near Wenatchee, Washington.

But in southern Idaho, fires are ripping through timber and brush near Challis and near Mountain Home. That 30,000 acres complex of blazes closed U.S. Highway 20 and prompted evacuations for the small town of Prairie. People in Pine and Featherville, Idaho, are also being encouraged to leave.

Thunderstorms Expected To Spread Wildfires, Start More

Jul 31, 2013
Douglas Forest Protective Association.

Fire managers are bracing for a round of thunderstorms that could create erratic fire behavior across the Northwest. Storms are expected from Challis, Idaho, to Grants Pass, Ore., starting Wednesday.

Sarah Levy at the Northwest Coordination Center in Portland says in some places, firefighters are digging additional lines in anticipation. But then there's the other concern – that more fires will start.

Smoke From Wildfires Leads To Unhealthy Air

Jul 30, 2013
Pacific NW Team 2 IMT. Smoke from the Big Windy Complex Fire near Galice, Oregon.

Smoke from wildfires is creating poor breathing conditions in parts of the Northwest.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says the air has reached "very unhealthy" levels in parts of southwest Oregon. That's due to a series of wildfires that have led to some evacuations but so far have caused very little property damage.

Washington Interagency Incident Management Team #4. A view of the Colockum Tarps smoke plume from Wenatchee, Wash. on July 28, 2013.

A fire that started Saturday morning near Wenatchee, Wash., is now burning more than 30 square miles in rugged terrain. Five homes have been consumed in the blaze and the residents in another 60 are being told to evacuate.

It's one of nearly two-dozen major fires now burning across the Northwest.

Forecasters predicted a higher-than-normal fire season this year in parts of the region, and so far it's right on target.

In southern Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber authorized bringing in structural firefighters to protect homes threatened by a large complex of fires.

InciWeb. Mile Marker 28 Fire near Goldendale, Wash.

Over the weekend the wildfire burning near Goldendale, in southeast Washington, grew to more than 20,000 acres.

Firefighters are battling flames in grass, brush and timber. So far, no homes have burned, but the fire has closed a highway that runs between the towns of Toppenish and Goldendale.

The blaze called the Mile Marker 28 fire is moving toward the town of Bickelton, Washington and is about 25 percent contained. More than 1,200 firefighters are working about 78 miles of fire line.

Steve Derry is a fire crew chief. He was just getting ready to head back out.

Washington Incident Management Team #2/ InciWeb. A column of smoke rises from the Mile Marker 28 Fire near Goldendale, Wash.

A wildfire near Goldendale, Washington is blackening grasslands, shrubs and forests along Highway 97. It’s called the Mile Marker 28 Fire.

About 30 homes have been evacuated so far.

“As of the last information we have, no structures have been lost. So it’s still in a precautionary mode, says Randy Shepard, an information officer on the fire. "But given the nature of the fire, we didn’t want to get anyone too close to the fire.”

The fire started on Wednesday, but the cause is still unknown. Much of the active blaze is on Yakama Nation land.