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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington Lands Commissioner: Wildfire season is here, so be careful

 (Molly Quinn/The Spokesman-Review)

Wildfire season officially has begun in Washington, and state officials are urging people to avoid sparking a fire as they head out to recreate this Memorial Day weekend.

“We know that every time we have a vacation holiday weekend, everybody loves getting outside,” state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in a news conference Friday. “Sometimes that leads to danger if they’re not being wildfire safe.”

The majority of fires in the state are caused by human activity. More than a third of them are started by yard debris burns.

As the weekend begins, officials cautioned people to remember: Even if vegetation appears wet right now, layers beneath the surface of forest canopies could be dry and flammable.

In 2023, the state Department of Natural Resources recorded 18,000 fire ignitions around Washington, making it one of the “busiest years on record” for firefighters, Franz, who is running to represent Washington’s 6th Congressional district, said. That year also marked the first year in recorded state history in which more fires sparked west of the Cascade Range than east.

Meteorologists predict summer in Washington will turn hot and dry right around the beginning of July. Across the state, forecasts suggest summer will be hotter than usual.

Washington residents need to start taking safety steps to prevent wildfires immediately, DNR officials say.

So far this year, 215 fires have already started in Washington, Franz said. Of those, 83 were west of the Cascades, and 132 ignited east of the Cascades. A total of 168 acres already have burned this year in the state.

DNR firefighting crews are positioned across Washington so they can get to any fire that ignites within 30 minutes or less, Franz said. But officials urge every person to do their part to not set the state on fire.

State Recreation Operations Manager Sam Hensold shared a few tips for Washingtonians to prevent wildfires as they head into the long weekend and start their summers:

Be vigilant about checking campfire restrictions and recreations

  • . If fires are allowed, never leave the flames unattended, and make sure the flames and smoke are put out before you leave.
  • Avoid parking, driving or idling on tall, dry grass.
  • Keep vehicles on established trails.
  • If you’re using an ATV or motorcycle, make sure you have spark arrestors.
  • Make sure tow chains are tight and not dragging on the pavement, leaving sparks behind.

Temperatures on Saturday and Sunday in Spokane County will bounce around the mid-60s and then warm up Monday, with a high on Memorial Day forecast in the mid-70s.

A chance of showers is predicted on Saturday, but the sun is forecast to come out and stay through the rest of the long weekend.