Washington state Department of Natural Resources firefighters were preparing for what could have been a busy Memorial Day weekend after a record number of wildfires torched the state in April. However, as of June 1, there had been minimal fires started across the state.
Despite that, the department is remaining vigilant with warm weather on the way. The coming weeks are expected to be warmer and drier than normal, and the state is already well into fire season, said DNR Commissioner Hilary Franz.
“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 in a press release.
There were 225 wildfires that the state Department of Natural Resources responded to in April, an all-time high. The department has only responded to an average of 54 wildfires during the month of April over the last decade. Most of these were caused by people burning debris piles from yard waste.
Drought continues to be the driving factor for heightened wildfire concerns around the state. From January to April, this year is in the top 10% driest years on record since 1894 for Central and Eastern Washington. The outlook is drier and warmer than normal for the months of June through August.
In total this year, the Department of Natural Resources has already experienced more than 380 fires, much higher than the 10-year average of 133 at this point in the year.
To help prevent fires, the state recommends dousing campfires with water before leaving them — if it’s still warm to the touch, it’s not safe to leave. Burn piles should never be left unattended, and a hose should be ready in case the fire escapes the boundaries. Chains shouldn’t drag on the pavement, and target shooting into dry grass isn’t a good idea.
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