Agencies Downgrade Preparedness And Burn Bans, But Northwest Wildfire Risk Persists
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. That’s according to Bob Tobin, a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Spokane. He says the Northwest is still at risk for wildfires.
“Any time you have below normal precipitation, you have a good wind event, there’s always a chance you can get some grass fires going,” he said. “It just depends on the starts, and that can be caused by a number of things,” Tobin said.
That’s exactly what happened Tuesday when a fire started in Elmer City, Wash., near the Grand Coulee Dam. The fast-moving brush fire destroyed four homes and damaged two more.
“If we had this same circumstance back in early August, it would have just taken off,” said Maurice Goodall. He directs Okanogan County Emergency Management.
Goodall says even though conditions remain dry, he’s comfortable with officials lifting burning restrictions.
“They’re experts, they look at this stuff and they look at the possibility of a fire building quickly and destroying things. I think they’re doing the right thing,” he said.
All areas of Washington and Oregon are at least abnormally dry. Some parts of Oregon are experiencing extreme drought conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor. Those conditions have persisted for much of the year.
A study released earlier this summer in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences points to the lack of summer precipitation as the major driving factor when it comes to increasing fire severity.
“Oh absolutely – yeah, lack of precipitation is what drives most of it,” Tobin said.
He said the forecast does call for cooler temperatures and wetter weather over the next two weeks. By Tobin’s estimate, at least half an inch of rain or two to three consistently wet days could help prevent late-season wildfires.
A wildfire continued burning today near the Hanford Nuclear Site. The Cold Creek Fire is burning sensitive, federally protected habitat. As of Friday afternoon it was estimated at about 18,000 acres and 10 percent containment. Continue Reading Cold Creek Fire Near Hanford Grows Big, Threatens Sensitive Ecological And Cultural Areas
Five years later, the Carlton Complex is still the single largest fire in Washington state’s history. By the end of summer, the Okanogan Long Term Recovery Group will have rebuilt 39 homes. The group’s contractors are putting the finishing touches on the final two homes now. They’ve held a ribbon cutting at nearly each spot. Continue Reading Pateros And North Central Washington Continue Rebuilding 5 Years After Carlton Complex Fire
No figures on wildland firefighter suicides are available because federal agencies often track only fatalities that occur during work hours, and families don’t always release a cause of death. But lang management agencies are concerned about an increasing number of suicides, and seeking to address ways to help. Continue Reading Federal Agencies Boost Efforts To Address Wildland Firefighter Suicides