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.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Despite drought, wind and unusually warm temperatures, all factors for wildfire spread, Spokane County saw less unhealthy air quality than it has in previous years.

Since the beginning of this year air quality in Spokane County has fallen below the unhealthy for some group’s standard on eight separate days.

Lisa Woodard, the spokeswoman for the Spokane Clean Air Agency, said this year is an average of what the area has already seen, and will see in the coming years.

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.

Spokane County Fire District 9

A Spokane County firefighter was died after he was wounded fighting a brush fire Thursday. 

According to a release from Spokane County Fire District 9 Fire Chief Jack Cates, the fire fighter Cody Traber was an 18-year-veteran of the department.

He previously served Stevens County Fire District 1, the Cheney Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources Arcadia District.

He leaves behind his wife and four children. 

Courtesy of Sarah Benton

Hundreds of people were displaced by the Ford-Corkscrew wildfire that is now about two-thirds contained in southern Stevens County. Some of them are still waiting to return.

One woman who has been allowed to return says the whole experience has been harrowing.

Courtesy of the Northeast Fire Information Center

The Ford-Corkscrew fire that has burned 15,000 acres in Stevens County is now 14% contained.

Stevens County Fire District 1 Chief Mike Bucy says a rough perimeter has been established around the fire. He likens the current activity to connecting the dots, where some gaps remain in areas with rougher terrain.

Online Briefings Help People Follow Wildfire Strategy

Aug 16, 2021
Screenshot from Forest Service Facebook briefing

As fire crews battle dozens of wildfires around the Northwest, the public can now follow their progress from the their living rooms. 

You can read online or emailed dispatches from individual fires. Or you can tune in and get an online live briefing.

Courtesy of National Weather Service

The region's hot, dry conditions are hampering efforts to put out wildfires. One of those is burning in Stevens County. It started in a building near Ford yesterday afternoon.

East Of The Cascades Under Air Quality Alert

Aug 12, 2021
Washington State Department of Ecology.

All of Eastern and Central Washington is under an air quality alert due rapidly spreading wildfires fueled by unusually hot and dry conditions.  

Lisa Woodard, the spokeswoman for the Spokane Clean Air Agency, said the alert is in effect until Monday due to worsening conditions.

This weekend air quality in the Spokane area reached unhealthy levels due to wildfire smoke. This summer air quality in Okanogan County briefly was the worst in the world due to wildfires.

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.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Department of Natural Resource lands will be closed to the public from Friday until further notice due to the growing danger of wildfires.

Elevated Fire Risk Continues In Inland NW On Tuesday

Jul 20, 2021
Courtesy of National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for much of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. That’s in effect through Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Spokane County’s air quality is listed as moderate this morning and it’s expected to remain there for a few days.

Courtesy of National Interagency Fire Center

Cooler temperatures and a bit more humidity are expected to help Northwest firefighters for the next day or two. But the winds from the west that are moderating temperatures may also help spread flames and embers from existing fires.

Courtesy of Fairywrenproject.org

A new Washington State University study finds one species of songbird was so impacted by wildfire that it delayed the period where the males molted into bright plumage, thus postponing the breeding season.

The discovery was made in Australia by WSU researcher Jordan Boersma after a wildfire raced through the habitat of the red-backed fairywren.

TVW screenshot

As wildfires burn around Washington, the state’s Department of Ecology has declared a climate emergency for most of the state. During a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee said most of the state is unnaturally dry.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Courtesy of National Weather Service

The unusually hot temperatures in the Northwest are also bringing the possibility of more wildfires.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for the Columbia Basin, where a sagebrush and grass fire is burning near the Adams County town of Lind.

Courtesy of Inciweb

The intense heat we’ll experience during the next several days may elevate the risk of wildfires, but forecasters don’t expect winds to be much of a factor in pushing smoke around the region.

Here's one small item that shows state officials are worried about wildfires. The Department of Natural Resources says people may, temporarily, no longer use two of its properties in Stevens County as shooting ranges. They're worried shooters could spark fires in the dry conditions there.

WA Scientist Rolls Out New Longer-Term Smoke Forecast

Jun 8, 2021
Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

Washington’s state environmental agency has developed a new tool for determining where smoke from wildfires is going to disperse. The goal is to give people who are downwind more time so they can prepare.

Courtesy of Jacob Frank, National Park Service

Crews battled several small wildfires around the Inland Northwest over the weekend, many of them burning dry brush and whipped up by brisk winds.