Spring Is In The Air, And With It The 2018 Northwest Wildfire Season
It may still be wet and muddy out there, with even snow on the ground in some places, but it’s also the time of year when wildland firefighters start to gear up for hot, dry weather and wildfires.
Washington and Oregon saw hundreds of millions of dollars in damage from wildfires last year. Still, Washington’s wildfire season wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
“Last year we kept 96 percent of our fires below 10 acres.” Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said.
She says firefighters knew where things might get bad, so they were strategic about how to plan for that.
“We were able to leverage air assets early and get them out quickly on the ground,” Franz said. “We also prepositioned equipment based on what we knew was significant forest health crisis in areas of our state.”
Now Franz is calling for more up-front wildfire management funding.
“The reality is the more we have money up front to be able to train our people on the ground and get equipment, we can keep those fires small rather than have to pay the significant millions of dollars we pay for fire damage afterwards,” she said.
This year, the state Legislature approved a supplemental budget request of $1.7 million for fire suppression for the upcoming season. That money will be used early on in the season to prepare for the start of wildfires. Fire managers are also waiting to see how much, if any, federal dollars might come their way.
Franz was in Yakima Tuesday to meet with hundreds of wildland firefighters from Oregon, Washington and Alaska. They’re all in town for an annual meeting that includes workshops on training, health and safety and they’ll get a briefing on the 2018 wildfire season forecast.
Nothing is simple when it comes to federal lands management. But in order to thin fire-prone forests — and to break legal and ideological gridlock — national forests in the Pacific Northwest are supporting collaborations with formerly adversarial interests. Continue Reading To Prevent Devastating Wildfires, Old Adversaries Are Finding Ways To Work Together
Not all wildfire is a force of destruction. Many of our favorite Northwest plants and animals have evolved to depend on it. Continue Reading Why Many Northwest Animals And Plants Need Wildfire
State and federal agencies throughout the Northwest are starting to lift burn restrictions on some lands. The Wildfire Preparedness level for the region was downgraded to its lowest stage — Level 1 — this week. But the region is below normal for precipitation and has been so for the past two months. Continue Reading Agencies Downgrade Preparedness And Burn Bans, But Northwest Wildfire Risk Persists