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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.

DNR predicting above normal fire season

DNR predicting above normal fire season

The Department of Natural Resources is expecting this year's fire season to be above normal and that while the number of fires they see might not change, the size of the fires probably will.

"We're expecting higher than normal temperatures so in certain areas, especially in the Spokane area, we're expecting a slightly above normal fire season," Guy Gifford with the DNR said.

The fire season usually hits its peak in September, however with dry conditions and higher than normal temperatures it means the fire danger is rising more rapidly than usual. For Eastern Washington this is expected to cause more large project fires.

"The thing is in Eastern Washington our normal fire season is 500 fires a year. That's normal. Of those we can usually expect six to ten of that many fires a year becoming a Type 2 which we call a project fire," Gifford said.

These types of wildfires span between 500 and 800 acres and require more outside resources to get them contained.

"More large fires means more homes threatens and more homes lost in a normal fire year," Gifford said.

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.

Storm blankets Inland Northwest with snow

Storm blankets Inland Northwest with snow

The National Weather Service says the Spokane area will see more snow Monday morning before it turns to freezing rain and just rain later in the day.

The Weather Service recorded nearly 5 inches of snow at Spokane International Airport from the storm.

The city of Spokane declared a Stage 1 snow event over the weekend and asked residents to move parked cars off arterials and bus routes to help snow plows.

Significant snow also fell elsewhere in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho with amounts varying by location and elevation.

Forecasters warn that roads will remain icy and slushy before warmer air moves into the region Monday.