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Holiday comes on opening of fire season

SEATTLE – The National Weather Service says Washington residents will soon forget the cool, wet spring they’ve been complaining about, because they are forecasting a warm, dry summer for the entire state. This weekend is also bringing the beginning of the wildfire season.

“There’s a perception that the Fourth of July is always lousy,” said Ted Buehner, a weather service meteorologist whose job it is to warn people about natural emergencies. The reality is that it seldom rains in Washington on the holiday and three out of four Independence Days are sunny and dry, he said recently.

Last year was a wet exception, but the forecast for Monday and beyond calls for dry, sunny days – the kind of conditions that are conducive to wildfires. Buehner and other officials want Washington residents to think about the weather and the potential wildfire risk when they’re planning personal fireworks displays.

In 2010, there were 414 fireworks-related blazes and 161 injuries reported to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Those incidents caused $2.1 million in property loss.

Carl Cerniglia, the weather service’s fire weather forecaster, said he expects a normal fire season this year, despite the especially wet spring. It only takes a short time for dry weather to increase the fire danger, he said.

A statewide burn ban in effect on all lands protected by the Washington state Department of Natural Resources began Friday and continues through Sept. 30. No fires are allowed on Washington forest lands, except in federal forests and in designated campground fire pits. Gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbecues also are allowed under the ban.