Regional News

The latest stories from Spokane Public Radio and the Northwest News Network.

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Rebecca White/SPR

The group of community members and public officials who have been meeting for seven years to push for criminal justice reform in Spokane County met for what is likely the last time Wednesday.

During that meeting, many members expressed frustration, saying they’re concerned the new group will not focus on racial equity and have less community input.

More Wind May Help, Hurt NW Firefighting Efforts Thursday

Jul 14, 2021
Courtesy of Northwest Interagency Coordinating Center

Fire crews in the Northwest are bracing for more winds Wednesday evening as they battle wildfires that are burning hundreds of thousands of acres of parched land.

Earthquake researchers are eager to dig into a trove of new data about the offshore Cascadia fault zone. When Cascadia ruptures, it can trigger a megaquake known as "the Big One." The valuable new imaging of the geology off the Oregon, Washington and British Columbia coasts comes from a specialized research vessel.

National Weather Service Spokane

Temperatures in the Inland Northwest are still hotter than normal, and this week the region will also be more prone to fire danger and smoky air due to drought and wind.

Spokane Must Now Open Cooling Centers at 95 Degrees

Jul 13, 2021
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Cooling Centers opened in Spokane Public Libraries and at the Looff Carousel today and will be open until the temperature drops below 95 degrees.

The cooling centers re-opened after the Spokane City Council updated an ordinance outlining when the city needs to provide shelter – during heat, winter and smoke events.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear called on the mayor’s administration to plan ahead for those events, which are likely to become more common due to the worsening climate crisis.

Lightning Ignites Several Fires On Colville Reservation

Jul 13, 2021
Courtesy of Colville Confederated Tribes

Northwest fire officials say there are 10 large fires burning in Washington and Oregon. That’s up two from Monday.
 
The newest triggered evacuations on the Colville Indian Reservation in eastern Washington.

Courtesy of Spokane Valley Career and Technical Education

Many employers in the U.S. are having trouble finding qualified workers as the country emerges from the pandemic. Spokane Valley manufacturing interests have decided one of the best ways to combat that is by developing their own workforce.

On Monday, several companies welcomed 20 high school students for the first day of a Production and Manufacturing Academy.

In August of last year, Tiffany Krueger feared her dream of owning and operating a fitness center would be crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee imposed new restrictions on gyms that nearly tripled the required space between class participants. For Krueger’s small gym, Athena Fitness and Wellness in Olympia, that meant further reducing class sizes.

Wildfires Spread Out All Over The Northwest

Jul 12, 2021
Courtesy of Northwest Interagency Coordinating Center

Federal wildfire officials say eight major fires are burning more than 220,000 acres in Washington and Oregon. That doesn’t count several other fires burning in Idaho.

UPDATE: Three new fires that ignited last night are burning on the Colville Indian reservation, including two near Nespelem.

Flickr Creative Commons/Cannabis Culture

You've probably heard the anecdotal evidence for years from sources as varied as school anti-drug programs to Cheech and Chong. Now, a WSU study seems to confirm what we have heard about cannabis use and memory issues.

The State Of Northwest Fires At The Beginning Of The Week

Jul 11, 2021
Courtesy of Idaho Fire Map

Wildfire season has intensified in the Inland Northwest, with the central Idaho mountains and the area where Washington, Oregon, and Idaho meet as the hot spots.

Rise Above

This week many local Native youth will participate in a basketball and volleyball Rise Above clinic in the Spokane Valley.

The clinic, interspersed with wellness programs and appearances from basketball and volleyball heavy weights, was inspired by founder Jaci McCormack’s experiences with sports, which she calls her saving grace.

McCormack is an Illinois State University women’s basketball legend and grew up on the Nez Perce reservation. She said basketball is where she always goes to find peace.

20 Spokane County Deaths Linked to Heat

Jul 9, 2021

In Spokane 20 deaths and many more medical emergencies have been linked to the heat wave that swept through the Pacific Northwest last week.

Many of the people who died due to heat exposure were found alone, without air conditioning. Health officials expect more deaths this summer across the region as unusually hot weather continues.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, 78 deaths have been attributed to the heat, but the number is likely much higher due to delays in reporting from local governments and health districts.

Courtney Flatt/NW Public Broadcasting

Tribes across the Northwest called for immediate action to remove the four Lower Snake River dams during a two-day Salmon and Orca summit in western Washington. The group called on President Biden and congressional members to “take bold action, now.”

Courtesy of Idaho Fire Map

Crews are making good progress on the Andrus Fire west of Spokane. Fire officials peg the size of that fire at 232 acres, down from about 300, as they’ve updated their mapping.

Meanwhile, several smaller wildfires have broken out all over eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

Courtesy of National Weather Service

  

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Wednesday that 17 people in Spokane County have died from heat related illnesses in the last week.

The Pacific Northwest experienced record breaking temperatures, with the city of Spokane reaching an all-time high of 109 last Tuesday.

According to the Medical Examiner, the county saw more heat exposure deaths in the last seven days, than in the last six years. Since 2015, there had been 13 heat exposure deaths.

Several INW Cities Recorded Record High Temps Last Week

Jul 7, 2021
Courtesy of National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has confirmed that many Inland Northwest cities and towns tied or broke all-time high temperature records week. The agency issued what it calls a “record event report” Tuesday evening.

Jacob Frank/National Park Service

Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency Tuesday due to wildfires.

According to a press release, Inslee’s proclamation bans most outdoor and agricultural burning until the end of September.

After one last unsuccessful attempt at delay, former Washington state Auditor Troy Kelley has begun serving his federal prison sentence.

Kelley reported last week to a minimum security camp at a Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Herlong, California in the high desert about 50 miles northwest of Reno.

Spokane River Advocates Push Again For PCB Cleanup Plan

Jul 6, 2021
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A decade-long battle over removing toxic chemicals from the Spokane River may continue in a Seattle courtroom.

Members of the group Spokane River Team are asking a federal judge to push government regulators to limit the amount of PCBs that can be discharged into the river.

Fire Danger To Increase Tuesday Night, Wednesday

Jul 5, 2021
National Weather Service Spokane

The National Weather Center is warning of extreme fire danger Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Lightning storms, dry conditions and winds are expected to combine Tuesday evening and Wednesday, priming Eastern Washington and North Idaho for wildfires.

Evacuation Ordered For 250-Acre Fire Outside Cheney

Jul 5, 2021
Spokane Fire District 8 Firefighters

Firefighters worked overnight to contain a wildfire burning near Cheney.

As of Monday evening, the Andrus Road fire had charred more than 250 acres, according to a tweet from Washington State Patrol Jeff Sevigney. It’s burning near the Marshall Cemetery.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

For the second year in a row, Fourth of July public fireworks displays were cancelled in the Spokane area. But they may return later this summer.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

This week’s scorching heat has surpassed high temps across the Northwest. Headlines, newscasts and Twitter feeds the past week were full of daily pronouncements about new records being set and, in some cases, “shattered.”

But right now, those all-time heat records are preliminary.

Courtesy of City of Spokane

The worst of the heat wave appears to have passed, but what’s left of it is taking much of the sizzle out of Fourth of July celebrations. Fire officials are discouraging people from discharging their own fireworks and now, even professional shows have been cancelled.

Eleven Deaths in Spokane Area Linked to Record Heat

Jul 1, 2021
Courtesy of National Weather Service

In the aftermath of the record-breaking heat wave, the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s office has linked 11 deaths to the hazardous conditions.

The medical examiner has not yet completed autopsies on many of those death to confirm the cause.

Spokane Public Schools

The Spokane school board voted this week to change the identities of several schools. Most notably, it renamed Sheridan Elementary after Spokane civil rights leader Frances Scott.

Jerrall Haynes, chair of the Spokane Public School Board, said he fully supported the new name, and said it was personally significant to him.

Spokane Public School Board Approves New Boundaries

Jul 1, 2021
Courtesy of Spokane Public Schools

The Spokane Public Schools Board unanimously approved new boundaries during its Wednesday night meeting, the district’s first major boundary change in 40 years.

Spokane Public Schools' new boundaries are designed to keep neighborhoods of students, and cohorts of children together during the transition from elementary to middle school to high school.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell joined Spokane community leaders Thursday in touring a new housing development for families in the Logan neighborhood.

Gonzaga Family Haven is a 73-unit apartment project built by Catholic Charities. It’s wedged between Gonzaga Prep and the Spokane School District’s new Denny Yasuhara Middle School on North Foothills Drive.

Courtesy of National Weather Service

The Inland Northwest’s week of intense heat is giving way to a new weather pattern and at least slightly cooler temperatures.

Much of the region faces at least a slight chance of thundershowers today and temperatures in double, not triple, digits.

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