For this week’s embers and ecology we’re departing from the ecology side of things and instead giving you a short head’s up of what our fire season could look like this summer.
The National Interagency Fire Center just came out with their June issue of the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, and things aren’t looking great for Washington this summer. Predictions for the fire season call for warmer and drier conditions than normal, and as we learned in week one of our Embers and Ecology series, many of our forests are overloaded with fuels, primed to burn as high intensity fires across large areas. By midsummer, we can expect a higher than normal potential for large fires, our forests a spark away from combusting. Add in the corona virus pandemic and the challenges we could face this summer mount.
Firefighter recruitment is down and planned controlled burns to reduce fuels this spring were canceled because of COVID-19. If a big fire does break out, potentially thousands of firefighters could be working in close quarters making social distancing difficult.
“This fire season isn't going to be easy. We've already almost reached three times the number of fires we typically see by this point in the year. With about 90 percent of Washington's wildfires caused by humans, we can all do better to protect our firefighters and prevent new fires from starting.”
- Hillary Franz, Washington Commissioner of Public Lands
As our commissioner of public lands, Hilary Franz, recently said “This fire season isn't going to be easy. We've already almost reached three times the number of fires we typically see by this point in the year. With about 90 percent of Washington's wildfires caused by humans, we can all do better to protect our firefighters and prevent new fires from starting.” That humans cause 90 percent of our state’s wildfires is a staggering statistic. As public land users, it’s paramount that we are careful to not cause an ignition:
Obviously, campfires are a big one for causing wildfires. Follow burn bans and make sure
your campfires are dead out.
When fire danger is high, don’t shoot firearms into areas with dry vegetation, better to use a range for target practice.
Follow wood-cutting restrictions- sparks from a chainsaw can start fires.
Vehicles start fires in several ways: Make sure your trailer chains aren’t dragging and that
your tire pressure is good since driving on rims can cause sparks. Check your brake pads to
make sure they aren’t worn to the point of grinding metal on metal. When things get crispy
and dry, avoid driving through and never park in dry grass and shrubs, hot exhaust pipes can
As you’re out on public land this summer, it’s not a bad idea to pack a fire extinguisher and a
shovel in your truck. Once a fire starts, it can take very little time for it to grow out of control.
Basically, if it can make a spark, it can start a wildfire and when conditions are right like they are predicted to be this summer, one spark is all it takes to burn thousands of acres.