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Northwest Fire Season Ramps Up Ahead Of Schedule East Of The Cascades

Washington Incident Management Team #2/InciWeb
File photo of a 2013 wildfire near Goldendale, Washington.

With conditions at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation tinder dry, workers were told Wednesday to practice fire safety at work and at home.

The news is about four weeks ahead of schedule for these types of fire weather alerts — a sign of a long, hot summer ahead.

Earlier this week, the Hanford site was already looking brown and toasty. Fire forecasters across the region are warning of tinder dry conditions ripe for winds, lightning and human folly. 

Aaron Bibe, a lieutenant with Benton County Fire District 1 in the Tri-Cities, is in charge of predicting fire conditions in the county. Bibe says this week, the humidity readings, tinder dry cheat grass, sagebrush and Russian olive trees all indicated it was time for him to ratchet up to the “very dry” designation.

“We would encourage people to use the same caution that they do later in the summer, because that’s the conditions we’re seeing right now,” Bibe said. 

Bibe says that’s due to a scant-rain spring and pretty dry winter. He says most fires are caused by humans. He urged caution, saying use machinery like chainsaws in the early morning, stick to trails and roads when off-roading and have a bucket of water handy with campfires this summer.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.