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.
More people in the Northwest are worried about wildfires than they were four years ago. A new poll has found people in Washington are now five times more likely to say they’ll feel the effects of wildfires. In Oregon, people are three times more likely to worry about wildfires. Continue Reading Poll: Northwest Residents Are More Concerned About Wildfires Than 4 Years Ago
As wildfires become more frequent and intense, the disappearance of snow now ushers in a season of higher anxiety for those who have experienced the destruction of wildfire. And this spring feels particularly ominous, with water levels in ponds and lakes already exposing bathtub rings of pale earth that wouldn’t normally be visible until the end of the dry summer months. Continue Reading Snow Melts, Anxiety Rises: Wildfire Season Is Here
Shutdown Cancels Federally Funded Wildfire Training As Northwest States Scramble To Prepare For Season
From aviation contracts to deals with vendors and even seasonal hiring, the partial federal government shutdown is cutting into planning and preparation for the 2019 wildfire season in the Northwest.