Washington wildfires

WA lands commissioner reflects on 2021 wildfire season

Oct 6, 2021
Courtesy of National Interagency Fire Center

The wildfire season in the Inland Northwest is winding down. It was a season that began early and continued with intensity during the heat of July and August. More than a dozen big fires were regularly burning throughout the three states. The Methow and Yakima valleys experienced weeks of smoky air.

We asked Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz to compare the 2021 fire season with the 2020 version, which hit its peak during early September.

Courtesy of Inciweb

Washington’s Covid vaccine mandate for state employees goes into effect two weeks from today. Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says her agency is still unsure how much of its workforce will choose to leave rather than get shots.

Screenshot of Washington Smoke Blog

The rain and cooler temperatures of the last two weeks are bringing an end to Washington’s wildfire season and lessening the chance of region-wide smoke events.
Ranil Dhammapala, an atmospheric scientist at the Washington Department of Ecology and one of the contributors to the Washington Smoke Blog, says, during the peak of wildfire season, smoke generally bypassed western Washington, but made a significant impact in localized parts of eastern Washington.

Washington Reopens State Recreation Lands

Sep 16, 2021
Courtesy of Washington State Parks Commission

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has reopened all Department of Natural Resource lands east of the Cascade Mountains to the public.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the firestorm that burned most of the Whitman County town of Malden and hundreds of thousands of acres in eastern and central Washington.

Courtesy of Inciweb

As fire and land managers hold their breath, they’re pleading with Northwesterners to play it safe this Labor Day weekend. The goal is to avoid any spark that could create any wildfires reminiscent of the wind-driven firestorm last year.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

As wildfires have burned throughout the Northwest this summer, some forest stands have fared better than others. Managers say that’s thanks, in part, to thinning and prescribed burns, which have made the stands more resilient in the face of wildfire.

Ford-Corkscrew Fire Forces New Evacuations

Aug 17, 2021
Courtesy of Stevens County Fire District 1

The Ford-Corkscrew fire burning north of Long Lake in Stevens County has grown to nearly 11,000 acres. New evacuations were ordered Monday night in an area closer to the lake, including the area around Tum Tum.

Courtesy of Northwest Interagency Coordinating Center

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz toured two of eastern Washington’s major wildfire sites today [Wednesday], where thousands of acres on Indian reservations have burned. They are two of more than a thousand fires reported this season in Washington, already an all-time record, she says.

A Washington state firefighter was hurt battling a fire in Kittitas County on Sunday.

The Department of Natural Resources reports the crew member sustained serious, but not life-threatening injuries and is resting in a hospital. The person’s name hasn’t been released.

The Koffman Road Fire, as it is called, began on Sunday and has burned more than 400 acres of grass and brush. It has since been contained.

Washington Department of Ecology screenshot

Wildfire season is upon us and clean air agencies are encouraging you to prepare now in case smoke wafts into your area this summer.

Stephanie May says her agency, the Spokane Clean Air Agency, and several others have declared this Smoke Ready Week.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Washington lands officials are emphasizing prevention at the beginning of what could be a busy wildfire season.

The Department of Natural Resources reports more than 250 wildfires so far this spring, most of them east of the Cascades. That’s well above normal for this time of the year.  

A residential community north of Spokane is among those signing on to a new state initiative aimed at minimizing damage caused by wildfires.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Washington’s Department of Natural Resources says fire agencies around the state have already responded to more than 250 wildfires this year. They say that’s several times more than usual this early in the season.

This spring, Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has her agency focused on preventing fires and minimizing their severity. On Friday, she went to Reflection Lake, near Elk in north Spokane County, to launch a new wildfire prevention campaign.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Washington Senate has unanimously approved a wildfire prevention and forest health bill.

The legislation has several components. One creates a wildfire account into which the state would deposit $125 million each biennium. That would pay for programs that help to make communities and forested areas less susceptible to wildfires.

Global SuperTanker Services

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says the state learned a valuable lesson last Labor Day weekend. She says it can’t rely on other states for airborne help when wildfires break out. She’s making the case for a bigger state investment.

Deadline Approaches For Wildfire-Related Loans

Mar 15, 2021
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Small Business Administration says the window is still open for people and firms harmed by last September’s wildfires.

The federal agency is reminding eastern Washington and north Idaho residents interested in wildfire-related loans due to last September’s fires that they must apply by April 12.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Washington House on Tuesday unanimously approved a wildfire prevention and forest health bill and sent it to the Senate.

Among other things, the bill would create a fund that would receive $125 million each biennium. That would pay for programs that help to make communities and forested areas less susceptible to wildfires, says Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio

Wildfire victims in Malden and Pine City will not receive individual assistance from the federal government to replace the homes or belongings they lost.

Most of the town of Malden was destroyed in a wildfire on Labor Day last year and recovery stalled for months after the Trump administration ignored calls for assistance from both Republicans and Democrats. Last week the Whitman County town was approved for public assistance which will allow them to rebuild public buildings, but was informed today they would not receive individual assistance.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved disaster relief requests for nine eastern Washington counties and two Native tribes impacted by summer wildfires.

Washington’s U.S. senators and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) say they’ve asked President Joe Biden to approve a major disaster declaration for eastern Washington towns that were burned by wildfires last fall. Those include the Whitman County town of Malden, which lost about 80% of its homes.

Then-President Trump never responded to two disaster applications from Governor Inslee.

TVW screenshot

Last fall’s wildfires were invoked Friday at a hearing for a new forest health bill in the Washington legislature.

The bill is proposed at the request of Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, who reminded members of a House committee that 2020 was the worst wildfire season in years in Washington.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has called for the legislature to support a bill that would provide a dedicated funding source for wildfire response and forest health work.

Franz says the bill would provide $125 million every biennium to fund new firefighters and aircraft and work to upgrade existing helicopters.

Mother Nature Helps Crews Tame Williams Flats Fire

Aug 12, 2019
Northwest Interagency Incident Management

Cooler, wetter weather has helped crews battling a large wildfire burning on the Colville Indian Reservation.

Fire spokesman Michael Krueger says as much as two inches of rain fell Saturday and Sunday on areas in and around the fire.

Washington Gifts Old Fire Engines To Rural Departments

Sep 6, 2018
Washington Department of Natural Resources

Rural fire departments in Washington are fighting wildfires this season with tools passed down by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Ten districts and departments are receiving surplus fire engines used exclusively for fighting wildfires. They include four fire districts in Stevens County and three in Okanogan County.

Crews Continue Work on Wildfire in the Spokane Valley

Jul 17, 2018
Jeremy Burnham/SPR


UPDATED: Crews continue to make progress on the Upriver Beacon Fire in the Spokane Valley. 

More than 225 firefighters from federal, state and local agencies are working to contain the fire, which started Tuesday near the 6400 block of East Upriver Drive in Spokane.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

With warmer weather comes a higher risk of wildfires. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has implemented new restrictions in response to the rising temperatures. Spokesperson Guy Gifford says the new rules apply to Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties and take effect today [Friday].

USA Today

With all this water in our region right now -- one of the wettest springs ever -- the chance of a wildfire starting and gaining traction somewhere is pretty remote. But the memories of the severe wildfire seasons of 2014 and 2015 — speaking of the power of Mother Nature — are still fresh in the minds of Washington elected leaders.

Last week, Governor Jay Inslee, Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz and a few others met with landowners like Bonnie Cobb a bit west of Spokane. They wanted to see the work these folks had done to keep their homes and property safe from wildfire.

Mark Pouley via flickr

Last year’s fire season was a brutal one in northeastern Washington. With that in mind, the Colville Tribe has decided to ban all fireworks on the reservation.