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Wildfire Season Off To An Early Start In Washington State

Ben Brooks
An airtanker battling the Chelan Butte Wildfire last summer.


Forest fires have been popping up around Washington state since April. The most recent, near Gold Bar and Oso, both west of the Cascades.



Washington’s Department of Natural Resources says it’s too early to predict if 2016 will be another record-breaking year for fires. However, the agency says it is preparing for the worst.


“I think there is an awareness that we have a changing climate in our state and that that is bringing us worse and more challenging fire seasons,” said Sandra Kaiser, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources, the lead agency in charge of fighting wildfires.


In 2014, the state had its largest wildfire ever, the Carlton Complex Fire in Central Washington. Last summer was the worst wildfire season overall, burning more than one million acres.


Kaiser said the state needs to do everything it can to prepare.


“Whether it’s more joint training among the local districts, the national guard and DNR. Whether it’s adding more aerial resources to drop water or flame retardant on fire. You know, the last two years are just something we’ve never seen before and it would be prudent and wise to take this fire season, very, very seriously,” she said.


According to DNR, fires in April and May are early, but are not out of the range of normal. The agency is running three sessions over the next several weeks that will train up to 400 firefighters at a time. It's also currently hiring seasonal firefighters.


Homes in rural areas can be particularly vulnerable to wildfires. DNR advises people with homes in remote places to make sure brush is cleared away from the structure. Remove woody debris from your roof and have a plan ready, in case you have to suddenly evacuate.  

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.