People Have Caused Most Of NE Washington's Wildfires This Year, Not Lightning

Sep 16, 2020

Washington wildfire statistics show nearly all of the fires between January and August were human-caused.
Credit Courtesy of Idaho Department of Lands

New fire statistics from the Washington Department of Natural Resources show lightning has played a much smaller role in causing fires this year than in the past.

 

The agency has just released its latest data that covers the January through August period for northeast Washington counties.

DNR spokesman Guy Gifford says 494 fires were reported in that period, slightly above the five-year average of 480.

 

“One of the things that is different this year is 96 percent of our fires were human caused, with only four percent lightning. Normally 21 percent are lightning caused and 79 percent caused by people," Gifford said.

 

He says many of those fires were caused by people burning debris. “One thing this spring with the stay-at-home order there were a lot more people outside cleaning up their property, and so we had a lot more people doing debris burning than in prior years.”

 

There were also 19 arsons reported in the period that ended August 31.

 

The fires of September have added significantly to the acreage burned in Washington. Around 300,000 acres began burning on Labor Day alone. But up until the end of August, Gifford says 2020 was shaping up to be a relatively light year with only 26,000 acres.

 

The data from the fires that started during the Labor Day windstorm are not in the database yet. Many of those are believed to have started from downed power lines. 34 fires were attributed to downed power lines in the period of January through August.