Fire season is stretching state resources thin. To date, the Department of Natural Resources – the state’s largest firefighting force – has responded to 891 fires that have burned 113,000 acres (for context, DNR responded to 853 fires in all of 2017).
Wildfires are starting on both sides of the Cascades, with nearly 300 fires in western Washington.
Thankfully, using strategies that emphasize quick air attack and positioning equipment in high-risk areas, firefighters have been able to keep 94% of fires under 10 acres.
But the number of fires and weather – 96 percent of the state is experiencing drought-like conditions that increases wildfire risk – is exhausting available resources
Out-of-state assistance is also limited. On Friday, the National Interagency Fire Center raised the national preparedness level to 5 – the highest level – meaning that national resources are fully committed.
All available Type I and Type 2 incident response teams within the Washington-Oregon Northwest Interagency Coordination Center region are also fully committed, with more than 18 large fires burning in our region.
As a result, at the request of the Department of Natural Resources, Governor Jay Inslee on Tuesday declared a State of Emergency, which allows National Guard resources to deploy to wildfires.
“The efforts of our firefighters have been nothing short of heroic, but the sheer number and geographic range of wildfires have stretched our resources thin,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “Our state is at a very high-risk for even more wildfires, and we need additional resources to keep our communities safe. I want to thank the National Guard for providing help at this critical moment.”
This morning, two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters will stage at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane and prepare for initial attack on wildfires. The National Guard is also deploying five 20-person crews in northeast Washington on existing wildfires.
Stay connected during wildfire season
- DNR’s Fire Twitter: http://twitter.com/waDNR_fire
- Incident Information System: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Anyone who spots a wildfire should call 911 as soon as possible to report it.