Wildfire season may have been mild in the past, thanks to a cool, wet spring and early summer, but that all changed this week.

The Vantage Highway Fire, the Cow Canyon Fire north of Naches, the Williams Lake Fire south of Cheney, the Riparia Fire near the Snake River in Whitman County, and the Lind Fire, which destroyed six homes and eight buildings on Thursday, all Fire season appears to be underway in Washington as it occurred this week. At this time, no one has been injured in the fire.

“We’ve been blessed with a mild fire season, but we need to be fully aware that fire season is approaching,” said Public Lands Secretary Hilary Frantz at a briefing on Friday. , In drier and windier conditions, fires can break out very quickly. Before things get better, they can get worse.”

Three wildfires burn 22,000 acres in eastern Washington

The rains in May and June delayed the fires but also helped the vegetation grow.

“That humidity, that gray sky, that cool temperature really helped, but what we do know is that the humidity allowed all the grass to grow,” Franz said. “And now they will dry quickly at high temperatures.”

Strong winds in central and eastern Washington, combined with hot, dry air, are also contributing to the dramatic increase in fires.

“These windy conditions lead to extreme fire behavior, making it very difficult to suppress as the fire changes direction rapidly and unpredictably,” Franz said.

The good news is that heading into the weekend, officials with the Department of Natural Resources believe winds will ease east of the Cascades. I’m worried about

“The current expectation is that thunderstorms will bring precipitation to the east of the state and the high cascades,” said DNR wildfire meteorologist Matt Dehr.

Mr Franz said that just because the bushfire season has turned bright so far doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. She noted that the 2020 season seemed relatively calm at first, with a cool start to the summer, and then Labor Day weekend, when dozens of fires raged across the state and 500 square miles The above caught fire. Toddlers died in Okanogan County wildfires and nearly the entire town of Malden in Whitman County burned to the ground.

“We cannot forget 2020. We had a bright season in the spring and early summer of 2020, but tragically the Labor Day firestorm that claimed a significant amount of structure and the life of a small boy in 72 hours. I remember it vividly,” Franz said.

Franz pleaded with Washington residents to take precautions so 2022 doesn’t look like 2020. Always remember to completely extinguish your campfire when camping. Do not drive, park, or use power tools on dry grass. Keep the chain away from the road when towing a boat or trailer.

“Join us in making this year the safest, fire-free season ever,” Franz encouraged residents.

In the meantime, the state says it has enough firefighters and even has extra people to help other states in need.

“We have enough people now … we are actually sharing resources across jurisdictions to help fires in other states,” Franz said.

Vaccine mandates for state workers have come into effect since last year’s fire season. But Russ Lane, assistant manager of the DNR’s wildfire division, said the mission would not create a gap for firefighters. In fact, the state has nearly 700 firefighters, about 3% more than in 2021.

“We’re actually seeing a slight increase in DNR numbers. We actually have a handful more firefighters on the ground than we did last year. This is a really great place,” Lane said. I’m here.

Frantz said vaccine mandates for contract firefighters from other states have been waived “to reflect the federal government.”

If things get worse this year, Washington may send firefighters from Canada and the National Guard, but so far, the wildfire season hasn’t been all that dire.

Overall, Franz said the biggest difference is that this year’s firefighters aren’t as tired as they were last year. At this point in the year, the state has had about 300 fires. Last year he finished the wildfire season with nearly 1,900 fires, with over 200 in April alone.

“Given that we are not short on resources, we are sitting in a very good place.”

You can see a map of current wildfires on the DNR website.

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