Fires: Ash falling like snow
Update at 5:05 p.m. Wildfire destroyed two homes in the Methow Valley today, the Methow Valley News reports. A community meeting about the wildfires raging around the area was scheduled for 7 p.m. in Twisp.
East of Leavenworth, the Chiwaukum Creek fire ballooned to over fives times its initial size on Wednesday — blazing through 6,638 acres completely uncontained, according to fire officials. Residents of close to 900 homes near Leavenworth have been told to evacuate the area. U.S. 2 has been shut down between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth. Smoke from the fire is billowing 25,000 feet into the air. “There's a huge cloud of smoke above us," Don Hurst, a retired firefighter who near Leavenworth, told King5. "The winds started to pick up a little. It's just like snowfall here with the ash coming down. "
At least nine helicopters were dumping water over the flames around noon, with additional helicopters expected to join the effort later today, a fire information officer told Leavenworth radio station KOHO. The flames were too intense for firefighters to approach on the ground, so they were concentrating on building firebreaks in an attempt to stop the fire from spreading. An estimated 1,000 firefighters are on the line.The Chiwaukum Creek fire is one of three fires in the Mills Canyon Complex of blazes; the other two are located closer to Entiat. The biggest wildfire, the Mills Canyon fire, is 40 percent contained.
The Red Cross established an emergency shelter at First Baptist Church in Leavenworth. Evacuees who require a safe place to house their pets can contact Club Pet.
Air4 is flying over the Chiwaukum Creek fire, which is threatening hundreds of homes in central Washington. pic.twitter.com/L1sgGPCzT5— KOMO News (@komonews) July 17, 2014
Microsoft: Goodbye to record numbers
Microsoft announced cuts of 18,000 positions Thursday, including 1,351 in the Puget Sound area, in the largest layoffs in company history. The worldwide layoffs includes slashing 12,500 Nokia employees Microsoft acquired last year with the purchase of Nokia’s handset division.
“We will simplify the way we work to drive greater accountability, become more agile and move faster,” wrote CEO Satya Nadella in a memo. The downsizing will be accompanied by a new thrust into the affordable smartphone market, along with additional emphasis in cloud computing.
Although Nadella hinted at layoffs last week in a companywide email, the extent of the cuts exceeds expectations — making the 2009 layoffs of 5,800 positions seem like child’s play in comparison. Beneath those official numbers though, the company could also trim its use of contract workers. According to Zdnet, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner wrote in a June 17 email that Microsoft would “reduce our reliance on contingent staff augmentation by over 20 percent year-over-year.” So, how did Wall Street-ers respond to today’s announcements? By snatching up shares of Microsoft stock, which rose over 3 percent Thursday morning.
Thumbs down on Olympia leadership
Congress has abysmal approval ratings, but how do state lawmakers fare? When asked to grade state legislators as part of a recent Elway Poll, 46 percent of voters gave legislators a D+ or F and only 1 percent said the Legislature deserves an A, according to Q13Fox.
Gov. Jay Inslee didn’t get any gold stars: Only 43 percent of participants view Inslee in a positive light compared to 50 percent with negative opinions of the governor, according to The News Tribune. After 18 months at the post, Inslee’s minus seven points score is better than the even stronger disapproval ratings given to Democratic Govs. Christine Gregoire and Mike Lowry at comparable points in their terms (2006 and 1994, respectively). But, in 1998, voters were giving overwhelming approval to then first-term Democratic Gov. Gary Locke.
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