Wildfire season officially begins April 15, as specified by state law, and already the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has had more than 60 forest fires reported this year on lands protected by the agency.
“This year, we have ominous predictions for a hot, dry summer,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “While we work hard to prepare for what could be a challenging season, there are some things property owners can and should do to prepare.”
Property owners can reduce fire risk to their homes and lands by keeping dead vegetation off roofs and away from buildings. The Firewise program explains how to use these techniques and offers incentives to communities who follow Firewise principles.
Prediction for this summer’s weather is available from the National Weather Service. The risk of wildfires can change rapidly during the spring when warmer, dryer weather increases. Among other things, that means people working in the woods or clearing land need to have fire prevention equipment on hand.
Already, above average temperatures and low snowpack have created dry grassland and forests. On March 13, Governor Inslee declared a drought in three Washington regions – the Olympic Peninsula, east slopes of the Central Cascades and Walla Walla.
Last year, more than 315,000 acres of DNR-protected lands were consumed by about 900 wildfires, in the state’s worst ever fire season. Even though Washington experienced more lightning strikes than normal, 75 percent of the fires were human-caused.
Starting April 22, DNR will offer a series of wildfire preparedness meetings across eastern Washington aimed at helping residents in fire-prone areas of the state prepare for wildfire season.
The agency is also current requesting additional resources from the legislature to increase wildland firefighters and equipment, and to improve the health and fire resistance of Washington forests.
Washington’s summer fire rules
Washington’s “summer fire rules” are in effect April 15 through October 15. These rules apply to the 13 million acres of private and state forestlands protected from wildfire by DNR.
These regulations affect loggers, firewood cutters, land clearers, road builders, heavy equipment operators, off-road motorcyclists, and others. During fire season, people using motorized equipment in the woods must have approved spark arresters and follow fire safety precautions. In addition, those working in the woods must have fire prevention and extinguishing equipment in good working order at the job site and workers trained in proper use.
The rules are intended to prevent forest fires and to extinguish small fires before they spread. Those same rules restrict cigarette smoking in forested areas on roads, gravels pits, or other clearings. They also prohibit lighting fireworks on forestland.
Stay connected during wildfire season
- DNR’s Fire Twitter: http://twitter.com/waDNR_fire
- DNR Fire Update: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/rp_fire_currentfireinfodailyupdates.pdf
- Incident Information System (InciWeb): http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Daily fire risk ratings available by phone and Internet
Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL) may change daily and classify varying levels of potential fire hazard in different parts of the state. People who work in the woods must observe the IFPL. More information is available from the following sources:
- DNR’s website at http://www.dnr.wa.gov. Click on Fire Information to review regional
precaution levels, a map of current shutdown zones, and a copy of DNR’s Industrial Fire Precaution Level Bulletin.
- DNR’s toll-free business line at 1-800-527-3305 plays a message identifying daily
industrial fire precaution levels, which are listed by geographical region. The hearing
impaired can phone Telephone Device for the Deaf at 1-800-833-6388.
- Email DNR at [email protected]. Ask questions or request a copy of DNR’s Industrial
Fire Precaution Level Bulletin or additional information on safe outdoor burning of forest debris and safe recreational campfire tips.
DNR’s wildfire mission
Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department, with over 1,100 employees trained and available to be dispatched to fires as needed. During fire season, this includes over 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 400 seasonal employees hired for firefighting duties. Additionally, Department of Corrections’ adult offenders and Department of Social and Health Services-Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration juvenile offenders support firefighting efforts through DNR’s Correctional Camps Program. DNR also participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.