Tom Banse / NW News Network

Giant rats sound like something to be scared of, perhaps. But the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, thinks quite the opposite about the African giant pouched rats it just put on display. The rodents are billed as "hero rats."

Scott A. Leadingham

 

One hot July afternoon, smoke began to fill the skies in North Central Washington. In the town of Pateros, it was so dark you might think it looked like midnight. But it was just nearing dinnertime.

The 911 calls streamed in. The Carlton Complex had reached the edge of town.

Franklin County Fire District 13

Updated Friday, July 19, 3:30 p.m. PT

A wildfire continued burning today near the Hanford Nuclear Site on and around the Hanford Reach National Monument. The Cold Creek Fire is burning sensitive, federally protected habitat. As of Friday afternoon it was estimated at about 18,000 acres and 10 percent containment.

Washington Legislature

In the month since Washington state Sen. Mona Das, a first-term Democrat from Kent, made headlines for comments about racism and sexism in the Senate Democratic Caucus, she has been calling her colleagues to apologize that her words “were as strong as they were.”

SeaWorld parks said it has no interest in turning over its captive orcas to the Whale Sanctuary Project.
Mike Aguilera / SeaWorld San Diego

An environmental nonprofit is gauging interest in the creation of an orca enclosure in Washington's San Juan Islands. The organization is hosting public outreach meetings over the coming week in six Western Washington locations.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Long-distance hiking can be the experience of a lifetime. It also can present dicey to mundane hurdles, like having to hike stretches along busy highways or logging roads. Trail crews are working this summer to improve some enticing regional routes -- that you may or may not have tried -- including the Oregon Coast Trail and the east-west Pacific Northwest Trail.

Washington State Department of Corrections

Washington's Department of Corrections has agreed to improve conditions for inmates with mental illness at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Under a court-approved settlement reached last week, the agency will open a new minimum- and medium-security unit for these inmates, with the goal of reducing the amount of time they spend locked up in their cells.

Washington Secretary of State's Office

County election officials in Washington are warning that a new statewide voter registration database system is not ready for the state's August 6 primary and could result in some voters getting incorrect ballots or no ballot at all.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

In the span of just a few years, the Washington State Patrol has built up a fleet of more than 100 drones. At last check, the Oregon State Police had three. The Washington patrol says its small quadcopters are used for crash investigations, not for surveillance.

Courtesy Michele Gerber

A new federal report says that a massive building at the Hanford Nuclear Site is worse off than managers thought. 

The so-called PUREX -- Plutonium Uranium Extraction -- plant isn’t clean. Starting in 1956 the plant processed loads of plutonium. Its walls are up to 6 feet thick, and it’s as long as three football fields.

PUREX is located within Hanford’s 200 East Area. It’s about 7 miles from the Columbia River and 5 miles from State Highway 240.

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