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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.

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.

Wildfire weather in Eastern Washington

Wildfire weather in Eastern Washington

A combination of gusty winds and low humidity is raising the wildfire danger Monday afternoon and evening in parts of Eastern Washington.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday in the Columbia Basin, including the cities of Wenatchee, Ephrata, Moses Lake, Waterville and Ritzville.

Forecasters expect 15 to 25 mph winds with gusts to 40 as a front blows across the state. With a relative humidity in the 20s or lower, there's a danger any fire would spread rapidly.

The Weather Service says the system will bring a chance of light rain Tuesday to Western Washington and showers and thunderstorms to Eastern Washington.

Early cherry blooms promise good Washington crop

The cherry trees are still in bloom but growers say the 2014 crop in Washington looks promising.

Dan Kelly of the Washington Growers Clearinghouse in Wenatchee says weather has been cooperating. The bloom is nearly a week ahead of usual.

The first cherries should be picked in early June. Growers hope the harvest will last three months, which would give them better sales than with a crop that ripens all at once.

The Columbia Basin Herald reports cherries are grown from the Tri-Cities to Omak and the harvest starts in the south and moves north.