Wildfire season has officially begun in Washington state. The Department of Natural Resources said in a press release that the season began on April 15. DNR said that it has already had more than 60 forest fires reported this year on lands protected by the agency.
“This year, we have ominous predictions for a hot, dry summer,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “While we work hard to prepare for what could be a challenging season, there are some things property owners can and should do to prepare.”
Property owners can reduce fire risk to their homes and lands by keeping dead vegetation off roofs and away from buildings. The Firewise program (www.firewise.org) explains how to use these techniques and offers incentives to communities who follow Firewise principles.
Predictions for this summer’s weather are available from the National Weather Service: www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/multi_season/13_seasonal_outlooks/color/churchill.php.
Above-average temperatures and low snowpack have created dry grassland and forests. On March 13, Governor Inslee declared a drought in three Washington regions — the Olympic Peninsula, the east slopes of the Central Cascades and Walla Walla.
Last year, more than 315,000 acres of DNR-protected lands were consumed by about 900 wildfires, in the state’s worst ever fire season. Though Washington experienced more lightning strikes than normal, 75 percent of the fires were human-caused.
Summer fire rules affect loggers, firewood cutters, land clearers, road builders, heavy equipment operators, off-road motorcyclists, and others. During fire season, people using motorized equipment in the woods must have approved spark arresters and follow fire safety precautions. In addition, those working in the woods must have fire prevention and extinguishing equipment in good working order at the job site and workers trained in proper use.