News

Monday, July 21, 2014

Battling feelings of empathy, guilt and relief as wildfires burn across the region

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 2:42 PM

The scene yesterday near the Watermelon Hill fire, which is still burning about 7 miles southwest of Cheney. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • The scene yesterday near the Watermelon Hill fire, which is still burning about 7 miles southwest of Cheney.

The hazy, smoky air still makes my stomach curdle with fear.

I was 4 when the regional disaster known as Firestorm torched the Spokane area. On Oct. 16, 1991, heavy winds downing power lines sparked more than 90 separate fires around the Inland Northwest, burning more than 100 homes and blackening the land all around. I vividly recall Firestorm’s terrifying uncertainty, and now view it as one of the most impactful events of my childhood, growing up on 20 wooded, rural acres in Stevens County.

After the first flames ignited and sent embers flying, my parents quickly packed up our valuable belongings — antique furniture, family heirlooms, photographs and important documents — and rented a storage unit in Spokane. My mom packed clothing and we made the short drive to my grandparent’s 80-acre farm above our home on a hill. It was safer there, with more routes out if the fire moved in. One night during the fires, my dad took me outside, lifting me up on his shoulders. There, in my striped nightgown, I saw the mountain vista in front of our homes glowing with orange flames against the black night sky.

We were lucky. The firestorm burned for days all around the region, but our land and our homes remained untouched. It was the first memory I’d have of many more fires to threaten our rural community. Each one filled me with more terror than the last. Just as anxiety-causing were summer’s hot, dry spells, lightning storms and windy days that all meant high fire danger. The fires alone didn’t make fear course through my body, but the materialistic thought of losing everything in a fire’s wake.

As residents across the Inland Northwest woke up this past Friday morning to a brown sky blocking out the rays of a blood red sun, the dense ashy air left a fine, grayish-black powder on everything it touched. Street lights stayed on long past sunrise, and the world was cast in an ominous, yet eerily beautiful, goldish glow. These remnants of wildfire stirred up my long-dormant feelings of dread. I tried to imagine the emotions of residents of Central Washington — the people in Brewster and Pateros who lost everything in the still burning Carlton Complex fire. In place of a desire for empathy was something stronger — guilt. Guilt that here I was, conjuring up old childhood fears of losing my home to a raging wildfire when they just had.

When natural disasters — tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes, tsunamis and forest fires — strike, our collective reaction is to consume breaking news reports. We become almost morbidly fascinated by the images and stories of destruction fed to us, all so accessible on our social media accounts. At the same time we ache for the losses of others due to what’s largely attributed a random event. The Carlton fire was sparked by lightning; the whims of changing winds paired with the intense summer heat propelled it toward towns with little warning.

Every region of the world comes with its own set of natural threats. Those who choose to call these places home do so with some understanding of the chance they might be affected by a mostly unpredictable disaster. But until one happens to or close to us, that probability doesn’t dominate our thoughts.

Most of us will never lose our homes to wildfires. But when we see it happen on such a tragically large scale like the Carlton Complex fire, we’re reminded of our vulnerability to the odds and also comforted by it. Homes can be rebuilt and things replaced, but the scars of any disaster will live on in the landscape and its victims memories forever.  ♦

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MORNING BRIEFING: Problems with Washington's health exchange and how to help wildfire victims

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Firefighters continue to battle the Carlton Complex fire and the Watermelon Hill fire outside of Cheney. You can help victims of Washington's forest fires by donating to the Red Cross or other efforts listed here. (SR/KXLY/Wenatchee World)

A body was found on the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene early Saturday. Police have not yet identified the victim. (CDA Press)

Conservatives on the Spokane City Council are worried the liberal majority will pick another liberal to fill departed Councilman Steve Salvatori's seat. (SR)

Some people who've bought insurance through Washington's state exchange are still having issues with the site. (Seattle Times)

ELSEWHERE

Death and destruction continue in Israel and the Gaza Strip. (NYT)

A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of obstructing justice. (NPR)

Separatists in eastern Ukraine have agreed to hand over the black boxes from a Malaysian plane that was shot down and allow investigators into the area. (WaPo)

China has suspended operations at the meat supplier used by Chinese branches of McDonald's and KFC amid accusations the supplier repackaged expired meat products. (BBC)


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Saturday, July 19, 2014

PHOTOS: Summer Parkways at Corbin Park

Posted By on Sat, Jul 19, 2014 at 7:41 AM

A couple of hundred people biked and walked on streets, blocked off to motor vehicle traffic, around Corbin Park for Spokane Summer Parkways. Residents and visitors alike used this opportunity to leisurely make their way around the park or listen to music. Groups of people stopped every once in a while to socialize or eat.


Five-year-old Carmen Walter, center, rides in a trailer as her father Jeff pedals, with the rest of the family following. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Five-year-old Carmen Walter, center, rides in a trailer as her father Jeff pedals, with the rest of the family following.

Gus, a 5-year-old Bassett Hound - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Gus, a 5-year-old Bassett Hound

Josh Hofer and his Electra Straight 8 - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Josh Hofer and his Electra Straight 8

Erick Erickson, right, and Jo Pickens enjoy Tibetan dumplings. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Erick Erickson, right, and Jo Pickens enjoy Tibetan dumplings.

Heather Striker, center - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Heather Striker, center

Six-year-old Chloee Cline - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Six-year-old Chloee Cline

Jamey Calhoun and his wife Hayley, with their 2-year-old daughter Elsa in a wagon. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Jamey Calhoun and his wife Hayley, with their 2-year-old daughter Elsa in a wagon.

Rob Brewer and his 1-year-old daughter Winnie in the front seat. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Rob Brewer and his 1-year-old daughter Winnie in the front seat.

Larry Smith and his custom bike he built off a Dyno frame. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Larry Smith and his custom bike he built off a Dyno frame.

Mark Simonds - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Mark Simonds

Peggy Smith - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Peggy Smith

Sara, center, and Jesse Brown, of the Sara Brown Band, perform. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Sara, center, and Jesse Brown, of the Sara Brown Band, perform.

Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood Council Member Eline Helm with her 6-month-old daughter Linnea listening to the Sara Brown Band. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood Council Member Eline Helm with her 6-month-old daughter Linnea listening to the Sara Brown Band.

(Left to right) Heidi Arbogast, Eva Silverstone and Mary Bacon speak. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • (Left to right) Heidi Arbogast, Eva Silverstone and Mary Bacon speak.

A family break. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • A family break.

Lauren Stewart, center, and Will Dewey ride the parkway. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Lauren Stewart, center, and Will Dewey ride the parkway.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Photos and video from the Central Washington fires

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Inlander contributor Scott A. Leadingham has sent back these images and video from Central Washington where the Carlton Complex Fire has already destroyed 100 homes.

In Pateros, this was the mayor's house. Her mother and uncle lost theirs as well. - SCOTT LEADINGHAM
  • Scott Leadingham
  • In Pateros, this was the mayor's house. Her mother and uncle lost theirs as well.
View from Bridgeport. Ash coming down. Upstream on Columbia River is Pateros. - SCOTT LEADINGHAM
  • Scott Leadingham
  • View from Bridgeport. Ash coming down. Upstream on Columbia River is Pateros.
Pateros homes still ablaze. In the other direction, at least 20 homes are gone, including the pastor's of Community Church. - SCOTT LEADINGHAM
  • Scott Leadingham
  • Pateros homes still ablaze. In the other direction, at least 20 homes are gone, including the pastor's of Community Church.
Fire in Pateros came down this hill burning at least 15 homes. - SCOTT LEADINGHAM
  • Scott Leadingham
  • Fire in Pateros came down this hill burning at least 15 homes.




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MORNING BRIEFING: Carlton fire rages all night; questions remain pending Malaysian flight crash investigation

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 9:50 AM

HERE

The Carlton Complex Fire burning in Central Washington raged last night, forcing hundreds to evacuate as more than 50 buildings burned in and around the towns of Pateros and Brewster, Washington. (KREM)

Air quality in the area is rapidly deteriorating as smoke from regional wildfires blows in, and the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency is advising people to limit their outdoor activities as conditions continue. (KHQ)  

chain-reaction accident involving 24 cars and semi trucks on I-90 just west of Vantage caused eastbound lanes to close for several hours yesterday. (S-R)

THERE

It's not clear how an investigation into the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine will continue since the wreckage is located in an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists who allegedly shot down the plane. Find the latest updates on yesterday's tragedy here. (CNN)

Nevada's Lake Mead atop Hoover Dam, the largest reservoir in the U.S., has dropped to a historic low levels. (Reuters)

The University of Connecticut settled for $1.3 million a lawsuit filed by five female students who argued the university reacted to their complaints of sexual assault with indifference. (Seattle P-I)

The Israeli military moved into Gaza last night as Hamas militants continued to ignore pleas for a cease-fire after 10-days of attacks. (Reuters)
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

MORNING BRIEFING: Captain America, Microsoft layoffs, Cali's death penalty unconstitutional

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 9:40 AM

HERE

We all felt the heat yesterday. Many areas recorded temperatures at or over 100 degrees. Here's the National Weather Service's official numbers for the Inland Northwest. (NWS)

SCRAPS animal control officers have responded to nearly 50 calls of dogs being left in hot cars in the past four days. (KREM)

Catch up on the latest marijuana news with yesterday's Weed Wednesday blog, covering the Wenatchee lawsuit to ban pot sales, security issues growers are facing, and the House vote to make it easier for banks to service pot businesses. (Inlander)

Part of the Centennial Trail between downtown and Kendall Yards is closed during weekdays while the parks department works to improve a public green space near the Monroe Street Bridge. (Inlander)

THERE

Microsoft announced plans to cut up to 18,000 jobs, the biggest layoff in the company's history. (AP via S-R)

California's death penalty has been ruled unconstitutional, largely for leaving inmates' fates hanging in the balance for decades. (CNN)

Top military lawyer Eugene Fidell, who's argued cases over Guantanamo Bay, Chelsea Manning and commanders' roles in sexual assault prosecution, is now representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. (NBC)

After a big announcement earlier this week that the next inception of comic book hero Thor would be a female character, Marvel announced that it also plans to swap Captain America's Steve Rogers to an African American character. (Mashable)

The violence in Israel continues. Here's a breakdown of why Hamas and Palestine are fighting for those out there who aren't following the news as closely. (Vox)
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Center for Justice, others voice new concerns with SPD body cam policy

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Police accountability advocates today voiced several new concerns about the Spokane Police Department's proposed usage policy for officer-worn body cameras, taking issue with vague recording requirements and a perceived lack of public input.

The Center for Justice issued a letter dated July 16, also signed by the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane and other local groups, saying advocates found the latest draft policy insufficient to ensure body cameras would provide reliable oversight.

A promotional photo of the chest-mounted Taser Axon Body camera Spokane Police will start wearing in September. - TASER
  • Taser
  • A promotional photo of the chest-mounted Taser Axon Body camera Spokane Police will start wearing in September.

"Unfortunately," the letter states, "the current version of the policy supports a purpose mostly of discretionary surveillance, not of transparency and accountability."

Advocates expressed the most concern with the rules defining what and when an officer must record. The proposed policy says "most" police encounters "shall" be recorded, but a section specifically listing many common, required interactions was removed.

"If left to officer discretion, there could be inconsistent usage," the letter states, "which will undermine both the camera's oversight value and the public's trust in our police department."

The letter also requests policies to address protocols for camera malfunctions and additional oversight for video filing. Advocates hoped the department would extend opportunities for additional comment or discussion of the issue in the near future.

The new letter comes several days after the ACLU of Washington sent a somewhat similar letter, calling the policy "disappointing" and lamenting a lack of privacy protections. Nationally, the ACLU has offered several recommendations for how law enforcement should approach the use body cameras.

SPD officials note they proactively asked the ACLU to review the proposed policies to develop a balanced set of rules that protect both police officers and citizens. The department plans to start rolling out the cameras on officers by September.

Spokeswoman Monique Cotton confirmed today the department plans to host multiple public forums to collect citizen input and answer any questions about how the technology will be used. Those forums have not yet been scheduled.


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Centennial Trail closures start today

Posted By and on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 3:10 PM

image001.jpg

Your typical walk or ride on the newest section of the Centennial Trail just west of the downtown core may need to be slightly altered for the remainder of the summer months.

Development of what's called the Veterans Court area overlooking the Lower Spokane Falls between the Monroe and Post street bridges requires a section of the trail to be closed from the corner of Post and Lincoln (where the trail comes up to connect with the Post Street Bridge) to just west of the Monroe Street Bridge, beginning today, July 16, until approximately Friday, Sept. 5. This part of the trail is closed to the public Monday through Friday, from the hours of 7 am to 3:30 pm. It will reopen for evening and weekend use.
FRANNY WRIGHT
  • Franny Wright

Since this mile-long section of the Centennial Trail was completed last fall, it's been incredibly popular. From the Inlander's offices just off the pathway, we see a steady stream of walkers, joggers and cyclists pass by daily, heading to and from downtown.

But because of road construction starting any day on Summit Parkway — which offers the nearest sidewalk access paralleling this part of the trail — the weekday trail detour directs users up to Broadway via Cedar and then back down to Monroe and Bridge. Summit's closure is expected to run until Aug. 5.

Garrett Jones, a landscape architect with the city parks department, tells us improvements to the Veterans Court area include installing lighting, a drip irrigation system, native plants, landscaping and pedestrian pathways. Paired with the recent completion of the new plaza and Huntington Park near City Hall, Jones said the Veterans Court improvements were part of "a domino effect" to improve the area around the falls.

A picnic shelter currently located in the small park space is to remain. The city plans to lay sod to create a grassy area for park users to sit and enjoy the view of the Lower Falls and the new Huntington Park across the water. Also being added is a new stairway from Bridge Avenue near the Boy Scouts statue to provide access to the trail and the park space, as well as a paved pathway leading to an existing overlook under the bridge.
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MORNING BRIEFING: Wildfire emergency, dog dies in heat and deputy fired

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

HERE

A state of emergency has been declared for 20 counties in Eastern Washington, including Spokane, as multiple wildfires burn and temps continue to hover near 100 degrees. (KREM)

Vivint, the Utah-based home security company (read our story about the company here) that recently closed its year-old call center after being lured to Spokane by economic incentives, has repaid the $150,000 in state funds it received to move here. (S-R)

SCRAPS is investigating a case of animal cruelty after a dog died of apparent heat-related distress, and another was in serious condition, after being tied up to a fence yesterday without water in the heat of the day. (KXLY)

A Spokane County Sheriff's deputy has been fired after it was discovered that he was also still posting hours at his former job at Best Buy. (S-R)

THERE

Residents of many Southwestern U.S. border towns continue to firmly protest the arrivals of thousands of immigrant children fleeing the violence in their home countries of Central America, while other towns are embracing the refugees. (CNN)

Israeli military officials fear a ground invasion of the Gaza strip is inevitable after nine days of air strikes that have left more than 200 Palestinians dead, including the recent deaths of four children. (NYT)

Director Ron Howard announced he's working on a feature-length documentary about the Beatles' touring years, scheduled to open sometime next year. (Reuters)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

MORNING BRIEFING: Spokane gets millions for homeless; Middle East cease fire fails

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 9:03 AM

HERE

The city of Spokane received $8 million in grants to support homelessness programs and services for local veterans. (KXLY)

Owners of theft-prone cars can apply to the Spokane Police Department to get a free steering-wheel lock device to defend themselves from car thefts. (KREM)

The state of Idaho is re-evaluating its trapping practices following the deaths of two dogs in North Idaho this past winter. (S-R)

Coeur d'Alene has reached a tentative agreement with the BNSF Railroad to buy 20 acres of waterfront property for $2.5 million. (KXLY)

THERE

Three bright orange Tillamook cheese-branded Volkswagen mini-buses stolen yesterday (each worth about $100,000) have been recovered from a California storage locker. (Oregonian)

More than 80 civilians were killed in a car bombing at an Afghan market this morning in one of the deadliest terror attacks in the country since 2001. The believed perpetrators are denying any involvement. (NYT)

At least 19 people were killed and 120 injured in an underground train derailment in Moscow, Russia early this morning. (Reuters)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas is being detained at the McAllen, Texas Border Patrol checkpoint. (NYT)

Hamas and Israel can't agree on a cease fire. (CNN)


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