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DNR bans all outdoor burning

DNR bans all outdoor burning

The Washington Department of Natural Resources has expanded the current statewide burn ban to cover all outdoor burning on DNR-protected lands, with no exceptions.

“All indicators are that we'll continue to have high heat, low humidity and storm systems with winds and lightning. That means huge potential for wildfires,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “We need to do everything we can to minimize danger to people, homes and habitat.”

Hot and dry conditions since early summer have caused very high fire hazard conditions throughout the state. These conditions have caused fires to spread rapidly and challenged firefighting efforts. More than $91 million has been spent so far battling wildfires in 2014, and more than 350,000 acres have burned across the state. There are many weeks to go in this year’s fire season, which usually runs into October.

Perseid meteor shower Star Party tonight

Perseid meteor shower Star Party tonight

If the storm clouds clear we'll be in for an incredible show from the stars tonight, and the Nez Perce National Historical Park wants to make sure you get the most out of it.

Ranger Kevin Peters and Lewis-Clark State College Professor Emeritus Dr. Victor Kriss will hose a Perseid meteor shower Start Party tonight, August 12, at the park in Spalding.

Starting at 8:00 pm at the visitor center, Kriss will talk about the meteor shower and its origin, and Peters will talk about the influence of stars in the Nez Perce culture.

As the sky darkens, everyone will be invited to go outside and view the shooting stars. Participants are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit on, and something warm to wear.

The actual peak of the meteor shower will be at about midnight, but a bright moon will interfere with the best watching. However, the meteors at around 9 or 10 pm should be long, spectacular shooting stars – about one every five minutes.

Big Cougar Fire grows to 5,000 acres

Big Cougar Fire grows to 5,000 acres

The Big Cougar Fire is now at 5,000 acres and zero percent containment after it was sparked by lightning Saturday.

Burning about 24 miles south of Lewiston, Idaho, 34 firefighters from the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Nez Perce Tribe and the Nature Conservancy are all on scene.

Fire crews are using a combination of helicopters, dozers and hand crews to prevent the fire from spreading, focusing mainly on the North and South sides where growth is most likely. Today crews are battling high temperatures and erratic winds, with more wind in the forecast for Tuesday.

So far no evacuations or closures have been announced, but residents and recreationalists living or visiting in the area are encouraged to stay informed of conditions if anything changes.  

Avista thanks customers, employees for patience and hard work after storm

Avista thanks customers, employees for patience and hard work after storm

Avista released a big thank-you today to all their customers impacted by last Wednesday's wind storm for their patience during repairs, and to their crews for working non-stop to get everyone back online.

Avista says last week's storm caused the worst damage to their system since a massive ice storm in 1996, nearly 20 years ago. This time around it took nearly 96 hours to restore power to the nearly 40,000 customers left without.

Now that all the power is back on, Avista is getting a better look at the damage. Preliminary numbers show that more than 120 poles had to be replaced after high winds toppled trees onto power lines and snapped poles. That's double their initial estimate.

Dispatchers worked around the clock to prioritize work and dispatch crews to areas of highest need, organizing nearly 14,000 outage reports from customers.

FEMA funds authorized for Carlton Complex fire

FEMA funds authorized for Carlton Complex fire

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Carlton Complex Fire, burning in Okanogan County, Washington.

FEMA Region X Regional Administrator, Kenneth D. Murphy determined that the Carlton Complex Fire threatened enough destruction to constitute a major disaster. Murphy approved the state's request for federal Fire Management Assistance Grant on Thursday.

When the request was submitted on Wednesday, no homes had burned. Today, dozens of homes and businesses have burned to ash as the fire moved through the small town of Pateros. Nearby Brewster is also under a level three evacuation order, meaning residents must leave the area immediately.

A Red Cross shelter has been set up in the town of Chelan for anyone who needs assistance, including cots, meals and water.

State of emergency declared for 20 counties

State of emergency declared for 20 counties

A state of emergency has been declared in 20 eastern Washington counties due to multiple wildfires threatening homes, businesses and public infrastructure. The National Weather Service has also posted red flag warnings and fire weather watches for hazardous conditions (high temperatures, low humidity, high winds) for much of eastern Washington through Friday.

Impacted counties include:

WSU researchers create gel to keep fields healthy during drought

WSU researchers create gel to keep fields healthy during drought

Washington State University researchers have created a product that could help farmers keep their fields moist during a drought.

Led by Associate Professor Jinwen Zhang, the group created hydrogel pellets similar to the super absorbent material used in diapers. The main difference is what they're made of. While diapers rely on petrolium based gel, WSU researchers have created one out of soy protein.

The pellets swell to hold 250 times their weight in water, and because they are made of biodegradable agricultural material instead of chemicals they leave no residue behind when they disintegrate in the ground. In fact, the soy protein can actually act as a source of nitrogen to help plants grow.

A soy-based product would also lessen dependence on foreign oil imports, and boos the local economy since the U.S. Produces half of the world supply of soy beans.