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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fire danger still high despite recent rain

Raindrops cling to the hood of a car, Tuesday, Sept 19, 2017. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Raindrops cling to the hood of a car, Tuesday, Sept 19, 2017. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Fire danger is still listed as high in most of Eastern Washington, despite the welcome rain that has been falling this week.

Many areas of the state were at a “very high” rating before the rain, so the precipitation is having an impact. But a little rain doesn’t mean the danger is over, said Department of Natural Resources spokesman Guy Gifford.

“We’re still in September,” he said.

There’s no magic rainfall amount that will eliminate the fire danger, Gifford said. There’s several pieces to the puzzle, including the number of daylight hours and the outside temperature. Next week the rain is expected to stop and temperatures are forecast to be in the 70s.

“With those temperatures, things can still go, probably not with the ferocity of before, but it can still go,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods.”

If the forecast holds things could dry out quickly next week, Gifford said. “Dead grass will dry out within hours,” he said.

The fire danger is still very high in Okanogan and Franklin counties, which didn’t receive as much rain as other areas. All of Western Washington is now at a moderate fire danger.

DNR still has a burn ban in place, but campfires are now allowed in approved fire pits at designated campgrounds only. Privately owned campgrounds can set their own rules and continue to ban campfires if they choose to, Gifford said.

The same rules are in place on some National Forest Service land in the area and at the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. Campfire bans are still in place in Okanogan and Franklin counties. Fire restrictions in North Idaho have been lifted.

According to DNR records, more than 90 percent of wildfires in Washington state this year have been human-caused. They have responded to 745 wildfires so far this year compared to 766 fires in 2016. In 2015, when it seemed at times that the whole state was burning, DNR responded to 953 fires.

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