Pacific Northwest Wildfire Season Off To Early Start

Apr 20, 2021

Dangerous wildfire conditions have come early this year. This sign is from a past high risk wildfire season.
Credit Courtesy of National Park Service

The wildfire season is off to an early start in the Inland Northwest. Over the weekend, local fire agencies responded to several small grass and timber fires.

Spokane County Fire District 8 Tweeted video Sunday night of flames being whipped up by high winds.

Fire officials hope this isn’t a precursor for the rest of the season.

Normally this time of year, the rural inland northwest features greening countryside, but, because of a dry late winter and early spring, many areas are still brown.

At Spokane’s National Weather Service station, records show we've had 4.02 inches of precipitation since January first. The normal amount would be 5.54 inches. That situation is already translating to more fires this time of year, says Stevens County Fire District One Chief Mike Bucy.

“Just for an example, April, which is a slow month for us, we've averaged 6 calls per day. We've had nine structure fires but 43 brush-related fires.”

In a normal April, that number would be closer to 10 wildfires. Because of the dry conditions, the Department of Natural Resources has put fire restrictions in place for specific areas in Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane counties.

Anyone planning to burn yard or garden debris is required to purchase a permit if the fire exceeds a size of 10 by 10 feet. Bucy has advice for anyone planning to

burn debris in rural areas where it’s allowed.

“I can tell you this at this particular point, the general rule is just do not burn. Right now is just a good idea not to burn at all, due to the lack of precipitation in the entire area.”

Bucy says almost all of the brush fire calls this month were caused by debris burning fires that got out of control. Two were caused by people shooting guns.