BNSF Railway is spending $235 million across Washington to upgrade track and roll out a computerized safety system that experts say can prevent devastating train accidents. The move is expected to help BNSF handle a rebound in train traffic tied to more oil trains originating in North Dakota and a recovering economy.
A proposal that some freight trains through Spokane could have just one person on board as early as January has divided a union of rail workers and added fuel to a debate about how trains can be safely operated. The tentative agreement, forged last month between BNSF Railway and a union representing conductors and engineers, would allow trains equipped with new accident prevention technology to shed their human conductors. The agreement was negotiated and signed by eight members of a general committee of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union (SMART).
REARDAN, Wash. – From his perch in the combine, Joel Zwainz lowered the reel even closer to the ground. This patch of winter wheat, he said, is normally about 10 inches tall, and even cutting at 4 inches, he’s still not picking up most of the grain. “It’s no fun to harvest here,” he said. “It’s kind of hard because it’s so low. Right now, I’ve got my reel down as low as it’ll go, and if I take my header any lower, it’ll be digging dirt.”
The Washington Department of Transportation estimated in June that six proposed coal and oil terminals could add at least 44 more trains per day going through Spokane. In a letter to BNSF Railway in March asking for the company’s support for a bridge over train tracks at Barker Road, Spokane Valley Mayor Dean Grafos wrote that with the increase in coal and oil rail traffic, “this grade separation becomes even more of a priority.”
It didn’t take an engineering degree to realize the railroad crossing at Park Road posed a threat and inconvenience to the Spokane Valley community. Almost 6,700 vehicles a day crossed the tracks – the main BNSF Railway corridor linking Chicago to Seattle. Trains came through – 50 each day – at speeds reaching 79 miles per hour.
Two men were arrested in Okanogan County and charged with arson for setting a backburn that failed and helped spread the devastating fire that scorched much of the Methow Valley last month. The arrests bring the total number of people in custody to three.
OMAK, Wash. – Morgan and Cheyenne Stolp never thought they would have to lift a pig. But when fire raced overnight from Winthrop to their family’s rangeland in Twisp, the sheriff told them they had to evacuate – fast. “They did not want to go,” Morgan Stolp said of the pigs, which eventually made it safely to a friend’s house outside the danger zone, along with the horses, chickens, cats and dogs.
New storms bringing high-speed winds and lightning could ignite more wildfires this week even as crews continue efforts to contain a half-dozen large blazes in Washington. The National Weather Service predicts strong thunderstorms could begin arriving later today and are expected to knock temperatures out of the high 90s in the Spokane area. Forecasts showed rain and thunder likely in Spokane from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight.
At one point in “Book of Mormon” – the satirical musical from the creators of “South Park” – a dimwitted missionary surrounded by Ugandans struggles to relate Mormonism to their daily struggles, including female circumcision, child rape and genocide. Elder Cunningham breaks into song, improvising some fantastical remedies. “Who would have thought I had this magic touch?” he sings. “Who’d believe I could man up this much? I’m talking, they’re listening, my stories are glistening. I’m gonna save them all with this stuff!”
A Good Samaritan who said she snatched a wobbly head off a statue of Anna Browne, the namesake of Browne’s Addition, prompted several hours of searching in the neighborhood Wednesday before the mystery was solved. The neighborhood council first reported the head missing around noon. Around 5 p.m., Karen Mobley, the city’s former arts director, received a call from a “very nice lady” who lives near the statue.
It’s worked with cigarette smokers, drug addicts and children who stutter. Researchers at Washington State University hope it can help wean people off hookah. This summer, the WSU College of Nursing is spearheading the first known study of addictive behavior related to use of hookah, the popular water pipe. The five-week study poses the question: How is quitting hookah different from quitting cigarettes?
The man who engaged police in a shootout on Interstate 90 near Post Falls was indicted by a grand jury on 12 counts of assault with intent to commit murder.
Marcus Rael, of Glendale, Arizona, shot at police in the early morning hours of June 22 as he evaded attempts to pull him over on suspicion of driving under the influence near Coeur d'Alene.
With calls on the rise, firefighters in north Spokane County are asking voters to help improve response times and to better equip and train crews. Spokane County Fire District 4 is asking voters in Tuesday’s election for a $9.6 million, 20-year bond to build three fire stations and a fire training center. The money also would update communication systems and provide new vehicles and equipment for crews.
Eastern Washington University students affected by the largest wildfire in state history could get some financial relief this fall. The school has authorized $250,000 in aid and begun fundraising efforts for current and future EWU students affected by the Carlton Complex fire, which scorched as many as 300 homes and nearly 400 square miles in Okanogan County.
Fruit orchards tucked along riverbanks and hillsides in north-central Washington largely escaped damage as massive wildfires raced through the region. At times during the harshest advances of the blaze, the irrigated and fruit-laden trees were considered by residents as the only hope for stopping the flames.
Favorable weather Tuesday helped more than 2,100 firefighters begin to contain the devastating wildfire in Okanogan County. The blaze, known as the Carlton Complex fire, has scorched 250,136 acres, or 390 square miles – about 6 1/2 times the size of the city of Spokane – since it was sparked by a lightning strike on July 14.
BREWSTER, Wash. – The devastating wildfire that has displaced hundreds of people and burned about 150 homes in north-central Washington slowly moved away from populated areas Sunday, allowing for a massive relief effort to begin. The Carlton Complex fires fanned most intensely through rugged terrain near the communities of Carlton and Twisp. As of Sunday the fire had scorched almost 300,000 acres, or about 470 square miles, of the scenic Methow Valley, officials said.
The devastating wildfire that has displaced hundreds of people and burned 150 to 200 homes in north-central Washington slowly moved away from populated areas today, allowing for a massive relief effort to begin.
BREWSTER, Washington – The blistering, wind-whipped wildfires in north-central Washington raged out of control for a fifth consecutive day, blackening at least 215,000 acres in the Methow Valley and racing northeast toward the communities of Twisp and Winthrop. Fire crews reported Saturday that about 760 firefighters continued to battle the massive Carlton Complex fire, which has overwhelmed firefighters since it was sparked Monday by lightning strikes. Fire officials estimate about 100 homes have burned so far.
Here’s a creative way to beat the July heat. Kaniksu Ranch Family Nudist Park is celebrating its 75th anniversary this month with an agenda full of activities. This weekend, the park is host to the American Association for Nude Recreation’s regional convention, drawing nude recreationalists from Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska.
PATEROS, Wash. – A raging wildfire destroyed about 100 homes as it swept into north-central Washington communities and blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley on Friday. As dawn broke through a thick mat of smoke and ash, the chaos of the out-of-control Carlton Complex fire came into focus: husks of cars with melted windshields, paint and tires left behind, smoking rubble of what had been homes, and blackened trees.
With a nasty wildfire season at hand, Washington can now send in backup without further endangering firefighting crews on the ground. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the state to operate unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to monitor urgent and threatening wildfires. Drones can send back video to fire officials of terrain and fire conditions, such as the location of hot spots.
The current design for connecting the long-elusive North Spokane Corridor to Interstate 90 has some local leaders worried that traffic congestion would grow worse in east Spokane neighborhoods. The Spokane City Council last week asked the state Transportation Department to reconsider its plans calling for removal of an on-ramp and off-ramp from Interstate 90’s Altamont Street exit. The design for the proposed corridor project removes the ramps as a way to most efficiently move traffic along I-90, but neighborhood leaders say it could reroute traffic in a way that threatens development.