WA Wildfire Season Already Active; Covid Complicates It

May 14, 2020

Fighting wildfires sometimes requires close contact, something Washington state officials say will complicate work in these days of physical distancing.
Credit Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington state land managers say the wildfire season is already far more active than in normal years.

The Department of Natural Resources reports 263 fires, as of Tuesday. That’s about two-and-a-half times the usual rate for this time of year.

Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says 140 of those were fires that homeowners allowed to grow out of control.

“They are spending time at home. They are getting their yards ready. Unfortunately, they are starting them on fire in burn piles at an unprecedented number," Franz said.

She says restrictions imposed because of Covid have minimized the amount of training firefighters have been able to do this spring. Even with that, she reports one seasonal firefighter who works for the state in northeast Washington has contracted the virus.

“Who had not yet reported for duty. Was scheduled to report on June 1. Has tested positive for Covid 19. A CDC representative has been assigned to monitor the case," she said.

Franz says that crew member had been in contact with another DNR firefighter. That person is not showing symptoms, but has been asked to isolate himself for several days.

Franz says the agency may have to rely more on in-state firefighters this summer due to the complications related with moving crews from state to state.