Rain Doesn't Mean Fire Season Is Over Yet

Sep 10, 2019

All the rain we expected this week is in direct contrast to last year, when Washington was dry and wildfires made the air the most hazardous in the nation because of the smoke.

Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz
Credit Department of Natural Resources

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says this year’s fire season has turned out much different than she anticipated back in the spring, when a record 54 fires had been reported by the second week of March.

At that time it was believed our region had the highest risk for wildfire in the nation.

Then, she says, cooler temperatures and occasional rain by July slowed down the fire risk. So far Washington has had 1,100 fires statewide, compared to 1,850 for all of last year.

“Part of that is the cooler temperature, and part of that is the way we are fighting fires," Franz said. "We're getting on those fires much quicker and emphasizing our initial attack, so we lead with our planes and helicopters to keep them small, and as a result we’ve only had 138,000 acres burned to date."

Franz says even though eastern Washington is receiving lots of rain this week in Eastern Washington, the fire season is far from over.

“We had fires last week. We are still predicting if we get enough dry conditions in September and October and that fuel load dries out, all it will take is a spark or a match, and we're used to seeing fires go well into October. So people still need to be vigilant," she said. "My hope is we can keep the number of acres burned and the number of fires down and when we look back at this year it will be very successful."

Franz says her agency has been ramping up the number of acres treated each year in the forest health program to reduce fire danger. The plan is to treat 1.25 million acres in a 20-year period.