Wildfire Concerns Over Memorial Day Weekend

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With areas of drought expanding throughout Washington, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is asking Washington residents to make a concerted effort to help prevent fires this Memorial Day weekend.

“After a record number of April wildfires, we’re already well into fire season,” Franz said. “The coming weeks are expected to be warmer and drier than normal as well, setting the stage for active fire danger.

“When spending time outdoors this holiday weekend, be aware of your surroundings and avoid activities that could be potential fire hazards as temperatures continue to get warmer,” Franz said. “Our first responders are at risk every time they go out on a call, and it’s our responsibility to keep them safe by preventing wildfire during what could be an especially hot and dry summer.”

There were 225 DNR fires in April – an all-time record. On average, DNR only has responded to 54 wildfires during the month April over the last ten years (2011-2020). Most of these fires were caused by people burning debris piles from yard waste, one of the common causes of wildfires in Washington.

Drought continues to be the driving factor for heightened wildfire concerns around the state. For the period of January through April, 2021 ranks in the driest 10 percent of all years observed since 1894 for areas on the eastern side of the state. For June, July and August, the outlook is warmer and drier than normal.

This year, DNR has already experienced more than 380 fires, compared to a 10-year average of 133 at this point in the year. Most of these wildfires have been caused by outdoor debris burn piles escaping or left unattended.

Fire Safety Tips

Some simple steps that can save lives, homes and landscapes include:

  • Douse your campfire with water before leaving it – if it’s still warm to the touch, it’s not safe to leave;
  • Never leave a burn pile unattended – have a hose ready should the fire escape the boundaries;
  • Never drag chains connecting a trailer to your car – the sparks can start a wildfire;
  • Target shooting into areas with dry grass is never a good idea – exploding targets are illegal on DNR-protected lands and should be used with extreme caution where allowed;
  • Watch the weather – windy conditions around a debris burn pile can cause nearby trees and grasses to catch fire and spread quickly; and
  • Play it safe – if you have any doubts about keeping a fire contained, whether it’s a campfire or burn pile, don’t light the fire.

Source: Washington Commissioner of Public Lands

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