TIME White House

See the First Tourist Instagrams Taken at the White House

“Visitors are now able to take photos and keep those memories for a lifetime!” Michelle Obama announced on Instagram Wednesday, lifting a 40-year ban on tourist photography inside the White House

TIME Washington

Fire Crews Make Gains Against Damaging Washington Wildfire

APTOPIX Washington Wildfire
Elaine Thompson—AP Vern Smith walks through the rubble of his still smoldering home, destroyed in a wildfire the night before, June 29, 2015, in Wenatchee, Wash.

The fire was the worst so far this season

(WENATCHEE, Wash.) — Surveying the smoldering ruins of his upscale home in this central Washington city, Vern Smith pointed to what had been his garage.

“You can’t tell from here, but that’s a brand new truck,” Smith said, looking at the burned vehicle.

Smith was among those in Wenatchee searching for something to salvage after a fast-moving wildfire destroyed two dozen houses and several businesses.

The fire, which began Sunday, was the worst so far this season as the state struggles with a severe drought. Mountain snowpack is extremely low, and about one-fifth of the state’s rivers and streams are at record low levels.

By Tuesday evening, fire officials reported progress against the fire that has burned more than 4 square miles on the north side of the city, even as they cautioned that more hot, dry weather lies ahead for the July 4 holiday. Fire spokeswoman Kay McKellar said the fire was 47 percent contained, up from 10 percent Tuesday morning.

The fire destroyed 24 homes in the Broadview neighborhood. Downtown, two major fruit-packing houses and two other fruit-related businesses were heavily damaged by flames, losses that will likely total tens of millions of dollars. Wenatchee is a major center of the state’s apple-growing industry.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Nathan Rabe, the fire incident commander, told a news briefing Tuesday.

Nearly 250 firefighters were on the scene, contending with 100-degree temperatures and breezy winds. There have been no major injuries.

Chief Mike Burnett of Chelan County Fire District 1 said Sunday’s flames could have been much more destructive. “It’s amazing no one didn’t get hurt,” Burnett said.

The flames in the downtown core burned near BNSF railroad tracks, temporarily halting rail operations including Amtrak service through the agricultural city. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the main line reopened Tuesday night.

Dry conditions caused by this year’s prolonged drought helped spread the flames, but initial firefighting efforts did a good job of saving many homes, Rabe said.

“The burning conditions we are in are extreme,” he said.

Tom Bryant watched the flames charge up a hillside toward his home Sunday afternoon, then turned and told his wife it was time to go.

That’s when the front door burst open and a firefighter rushed in.

“He doesn’t knock,” Bryant recalled. “He ran in the door and said to get out.”

Bryant, his wife and pets jumped into their vehicle escaped. But their home was one of the two dozen destroyed.

At his home Monday, Bryant found the burned remains of his vintage Shelby Mustang GT 500 sports car, buried in ash. “It hurts, but it’s just stuff,” he said, while his wife searched for their missing cat.

Smith also noted that things could be much worse. “Everybody is safe and the animals are good. We’ve got insurance,” he said Monday.

Elsewhere in central Washington, a new wildfire was reported late Monday south of the small town of Mansfield, about 40 miles northeast of Wenatchee. State assistance was authorized to fight that fire, which has burned across nearly 5 ½ square miles of sagebrush and grass. That fire was reported 50 percent contained by Tuesday night and no longer threatened any homes.

TIME natural disaster

See the Devastation of Washington State’s Wildfire From Above

The worst fire of the season devastated entire neighborhoods, as the state struggles with an ongoing drought

TIME Washington

Washington State Wildfire Victims Return to Burnt Homes

APTOPIX Washington Wildfire
Elaine Thompson—AP Julie Smith, right, embraces her neighbor Renee Monson as they stand near the remains of Smith's home, destroyed in a wildfire the night before, June 29, 2015, in Wenatchee, Wash.

The season's worst wildfire struck as the state is struggling with a severe drought

(WENATCHEE, Wash.) — Tom Bryant watched the central Washington state wildfire advance up a hillside toward his home, then turned to tell his wife it was time to evacuate.

That’s when the front door burst open and a firefighter rushed in.

“He doesn’t knock,” Bryant recalled Monday. “He ran in the door and said to get out.”

Bryant and his wife and pets jumped into their vehicle and evacuated safely. But their home was one of two dozen destroyed in a fast-moving wildfire Sunday night in this city about 120 miles east of Seattle. A handful of businesses were also destroyed in the downtown core when flames spread there.

Firefighters on Monday kept a close eye on the wildfire, which has burned more than 4 square miles. It was considered sufficiently corralled that evacuees were allowed to go back to their homes. The Red Cross closed a shelter that housed 155 people Sunday night at a local high school.

The season’s worst wildfire struck as the state is struggling with a severe drought. Mountain snowpack is at extremely low levels, and about one-fifth of the state’s rivers and streams are at record low levels.

Rainfall on Monday provided some relief, but hot, dry conditions were expected to persist throughout the week as crews deal with this and other wild land fires.

Last week Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation that allowed state resources to quickly be brought in to respond to wildfires.

At his home, Bryant found the burned remains of his vintage Shelby Mustang GT 500 sports car, buried in ash amid the devastation.

“It hurts, but it’s just stuff,” Bryant said.

Meanwhile, his wife searched for a missing cat.

Down the road, neighbor Vern Smith was in San Jose, California, on Sunday evening attending a 50th reunion concert of The Grateful Dead.

“I was getting horrifying text messages from my family,” Smith said Monday afternoon, as smoke continued to rise from the ashes of his home.

His wife Julie got the kids and pets out, but the contents were destroyed in a blaze that left only brick work standing.

“You can’t tell from here, but that’s a brand new pickup,” Smith said, pointing to the charred remains of a truck in what was once the garage.

“Everybody’s safe and the animals are good,” Smith said. “We’ve got insurance.”

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries, but no injuries to residents were reported.

Elsewhere in central Washington, a new wildfire was reported burning late Monday south of the small town of Mansfield, about 40 miles northeast of Wenatchee. The state Emergency Management agency authorized state assistance to fight that fire, which reportedly has burned more than 3 square miles. The Washington State Patrol said three homes and a ranch were threatened.

Many of the destroyed Wenatchee houses were in an upscale neighborhood located on a hillside. Burned homes sat next to residences that were not damaged. Weeping residents drove through the streets on Monday.

“These were all really nice homes,” said Joan Mullene, whose home survived. “It’s really devastating.”

Dominick Bonny watched the neighborhood burn from just across the Wenatchee River.

“With the wind blowing away from us, it was like we were watching a natural disaster within arm’s reach,” he said, calling the speed of the blaze “just mind-blowing.”

Albert Rookard, who also lives across the Wenatchee River from the blaze, stayed up late watching the fire, and he was shocked at how fast it grew.

“From here, we could see embers just flying,” Rookard said. “There was fire in so many places.”

Officials know the fire started in brush on the edge of town, but they are still trying to determine what sparked it.

Sweltering heat above 100 degrees, tinder-dry brush and strong winds helped fuel the flames.

Last month, Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency.

Evacuations were mainly in the north end of town and included a Wal-Mart store, the Chelan County Emergency Management office said. The store did not burn, but several commercial buildings were near the blaze, State Patrol Trooper Darren Wright said.

__

Associated Press videographer Manuel Valdes contributed to this report. Writers Bob Seavey and Courtney Bonnell in Phoenix and Chris Grygiel and Gene Johnson in Seattle also contributed.

TIME Washington

‘Mind Blowing’ Flames Destroy Homes in Washington State

Washington Wildfire
Elaine Thompson—AP Flames and smoke from one of several warehouses on fire, thought to have been sparked by embers from a wildfire that hit homes on a nearby hillside, rises from the collapsed structure June 29, 2015, in Wenatchee, Wash.

The state is struggling with a severe drought

(WENATCHEE, Wash.) — From just across the Wenatchee River, Dominick Bonny watched a whole neighborhood in his central Washington town burn as a wildfire destroyed two dozen homes and forced hundreds to flee.

“With the wind blowing away from us, it was like we were watching a natural disaster within arm’s reach,” he said.

The wildfires hit parts of central and eastern Washington over the weekend as the state is struggling with a severe drought. Mountain snowpack is at extremely low levels, and about one-fifth of the state’s rivers and streams are at record low levels.

Eastern Washington has been experiencing temperatures into the 100s, and last week Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation that allows state resources to quickly be brought in to respond to wildfires.

Washington’s struggles with wildfires come as Alaska, its fellow Pacific Northwest state, is facing more and harsher wildfires this year.

In Wenatchee, the wildfire fueled by high temperatures and strong winds roared into town Sunday afternoon. The blaze ignited in brush just outside Wenatchee, quickly burning out of control about 120 miles east of Seattle.

Rainfall on Monday provided relief, but hot, dry conditions and wind could challenge crews trying to get a handle on the flames that burned more than an estimated 4 square miles, officials said. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries, but no injuries to residents were reported.

Fire crews were concentrating on preventing any more homes from being burned Monday, State Patrol Trooper Brian Moore said. Crews were working to put out hot spots in already burned areas, while keeping an eye on winds that were expected to reach 15 to 20 mph Monday evening and could fan flames again.

Tom Bryant surveyed the smoldering ruins of his home in the hills above Wenatchee and said he and his wife had to race out of the house at the last minute as the fire advanced Sunday night.

On Monday, he pointed to a Mustang sports car that was a burned wreck and to his BMW motorcycle that was destroyed in the garage.

“It’s going to be tough to replace,” Bryant said. “It hurts, but it’s just stuff. It’s painful.”

He was unable to save photographs and important documents, Bryant said. “That’s where all our stuff is,” he said, pointing to a burned file cabinet.

Evacuations were mainly in the north end of town and included a Wal-Mart store, the Chelan County Emergency Management office said. The store did not burn, but several commercial buildings were near the blaze, Washington State Patrol Trooper Darren Wright said.

Emergency management officials late Monday morning also briefly issued a shelter-in-place order after ammonia started leaking from a fruit warehouse. They later said it had dissipated and was no longer a threat.

The Blue Bird warehouse, which uses ammonia for cold-storage, was among a few commercial buildings to burn.

Bonny, who lives just outside Wenatchee, called the speed of the blaze “just mind-blowing.”

Phil Bentz, who lives on the same side of the river as the fire, said his home hadn’t been evacuated. “We were waiting for someone to knock on the door, but they didn’t come. So far, so good,” Bentz said.

About noon Monday, fire trucks poured water on a burning warehouse in downtown Wenatchee, sending big black clouds into the air over the city. Farther north of town, scorched hillsides showed where the flames were stopped just short of irrigated apple orchards and residential subdivisions.

Officials know the fire started in brush on the edge of town, but they are still trying to determine what sparked it. Sweltering heat above 100 degrees, tinder-dry brush and strong winds helped fuel it.

Last month, Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency.

State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has banned all outdoor fires on state land protected by the Natural Resources department, and campfires have been banned at state parks and on state-controlled ocean beaches.

Railroad traffic in the area has been shut down, including freight lines and Amtrak’s daily Chicago-to-Seattle route, BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said.

The railroad helped battle the blaze by spraying water from tank cars and transferring water to firefighting trucks, he said.

Hilda Emerson, 37, was among the people who fled the flames Sunday.

“I went and grabbed what I could — my computers, irreplaceable stuff, toys for my daughter — and I left,” she said. “I never had to do this before.”

She and her 4-year-old daughter, Nissa, spent the night on cots set up by the Red Cross in the gymnasium of Eastmont High School in East Wenatchee. She planned to check on her home later in the day.

___

Associated Press writers Bob Seavey and Courtney Bonnell in Phoenix and Chris Grygiel and Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report.

TIME LGBT

See Scenes of Celebration After Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling

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TIME Washington

NAACP Chapter Postpones President Rachel Dolezal’s Statement on Race Controversy

NAACP PRESIDENT
Tyler Tjomsland—AP Rachel Dolezal before the start of a Black Lives Matter Teach-In on Public Safety and Criminal Justice at EWU in Cheney, Wash., on Jan. 16, 2015

An anticipated response from a Washington state NAACP chapter leader about accusations that she has been pretending to be black has been postponed.

Rachel Dolezal, 37, said in an email to members of Spokane’s NAACP chapter that she would address the claim by her parents Monday night during a monthly meeting, NBC station KHQ reported.

But the chapter announced Sunday on Facebook that the meeting during which Dolezal was expected to speak had been delayed.

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Race

A Prominent NAACP Activist Has Been Faking Black Ethnicity, Her Parents Say

Rachel Dolezal's mother said her ancestry is Czech, Swedish, German with “faint traces” of Native American

The parents of a prominent civil rights activist from Spokane, Wash., say she has falsely been passing herself off as being of partially black ethnicity.

Rachel Dolezal, 37, is president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, serves as chair on the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, and is a part-time professor at Eastern Washington University where she teaches Africana Studies, according to MSNBC.

On her application for the Ombudsman Commission, Dolezal identified herself as white, black and Native American, according to an Associated Press report in the Washington Times.

But speaking to a local paper, the Couer d’Alene Press, on Thursday, Dolezal’s mother Ruthanne said the family’s ancestry was Czech, Swedish, German with “faint traces” of Native American. “It is very disturbing that she has become so dishonest,” she said of her daughter.

Local officials have reportedly opened an inquiry to determine if any policies have been violated.

The Spokesman-Review, another local paper, said Dolezal would not answer questions about her race and ethnicity Thursday, but instead told the paper, “We’re all from the African continent.”

The NAACP has responded with a statement saying that Dolezal “is enduring a legal issue with her family, and we respect her privacy in this matter.” The statement continued, “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership. The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal’s advocacy record.”

TIME Congress

See the One Pastime That Unites Republicans and Democrats

The first Congressional baseball game was played in 1909 and the annual tradition continues today — pitting Democrats and Republicans against each other in a more jovial dispute

TIME Drugs

Washington State Marijuana Shops Caught Selling to Minors

Girl holding marijuana in hand , close-up
Getty Images

Four of 22 stores tested for compliance were caught selling weed to underage shoppers in state-run stings

Washington’s retail marijuana businesses got calls from the state liquor control board before the sting operations began, warning them and reminding them about best practices when it comes to keeping weed out of kids’ hands. But when the board sent 18- to 20-year-old operatives into the first batch of stores this month to see if shops would sell them weed, four of them still failed the test. According to the board’s report released Wednesday, that amounted to 18% of 22 operations.

“We’re always going to have the goal of 100% compliance, that’s what we want; [82%] is good, but it’s not great,” says State Senator Ann Rivers, who has continued to work on reforming the state’s retail and medical marijuana industries. “Many of these businesses have invested a lot of time and a lot of money. And it’s stunning to me that they’d be willing to risk their livelihood to do something so foolish.”

By the end of June, the state plans to conduct sting operations at each of the 138 retail marijuana shops reporting sales in Washington. “When the news is out,” the liquor control board’s Brian Smith says of these first numbers, “we’ll see a spike in compliance. That’s what happened on the alcohol side.” In the operations, the underage shoppers present their real IDs if asked but don’t offer an ID if they aren’t; if a store sells them marijuana, they complete the transaction and bring the contraband to officers waiting outside the shops.

Marijuana businesses in Washington that sell to minors face possible license suspensions and fines of up to $2,500. Businesses that fail three times in three years can lose their state-issued licenses, while the person who conducts the actual transaction faces a possible felony charge.

Reformers who wanted to legalize marijuana in Washington and Colorado—and who continue to pursue reform in other states—often argue that weed should be legal because it’s safer than alcohol. Regulations for alcohol, such as selling it only to adults ages 21 and older, have been used as scaffolding for nascent marijuana markets. Smith points out that similar sting operations conducted among liquor sellers in Washington always find slip-ups. Since 2012, monthly checks have found that an average of 85% of businesses, ranging from liquor shops to restaurants, don’t sell to minors.

Colorado conducted their first stings among a sample of 20 retail marijuana shops in 2014 and found 100% compliance, but the vast majority of the state’s more than 250 shops were not tested. Since summer 2014, the state has conducted a total of 137 compliance checks and six shops have been caught selling to minors. Similar checks among liquor sellers in Colorado have found that an average of about 90% of businesses don’t sell alcohol to minors.

Smith chalks some failures up to “human error,” though drivers licenses for residents under age 21 are vertical rather than horizontal in the state. Many shops, he says, have someone stationed at the door and people working the register sometimes mistakenly assume that all shoppers’ IDs have been checked before they show up at the counter. “It’s early. This is a brand new industry that is finding it’s way,” Smith says. “There’s going to be some kinks initially.”

“Because this market is new, some business people don’t have all of their systems in place as much as we might like them to, so I’m going to cut them just the slightest bit of slack,” Rivers says. But she also emphasizes that “part of the expectation of the people of this state was that [a legal marijuana market] would be well taxed and very well regulated to keep it out of the hands of kids.”

While she’s neither thrilled nor deeply disappointed in these first results, Rivers says that attention shouldn’t just be focused on what happens in the stores: “The larger concern for me is people who are purchasing it legally because they’re the right age but then giving it to the underage people.”

A failure to follow the rules gives ammunition to those who did not want to legalize marijuana or who would like to see existing markets fold. But reform advocates point out that there is, at least, some oversight now occurring. “It’s always disappointing when there are isolated incidents of non-compliance, but it’s also a powerful example of how a legal, regulated market leads to more accountability and responsibility,” says Taylor West, spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Because you can certainly bet no one’s checking IDs in the criminal market, and a regulatory process incentivizes legal businesses to play by the rules.”

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