It appears our wildfire season is underway and it' earlier than average. (AP photo)

Washington state's wildfire season has started

Despite close to the wettest February, March and April ever, it appears our wildfire season is underway and it's earlier than average.

A wildfire that burned sagebrush and grass south of Ellensburg in central Washington is completely contained.

Debbie Robinson with the state Department of Natural Resources said Saturday morning that the actual size of the blaze was half what was initially reported. She said crews using a GPS unit in the air measured it at about 2,000 acres, or about 3 square miles.

July into September is our driest time of the year. Warm, dry weather cures the grasses and shrubs making these fine fuels ready to accept fire. With El Nino developing, our history shows our wildfire seasons tend to be quite active following a 'neutral' winter like we had last winter.

The weather outlook from the NWS Climate Prediction Center for Washington through September is higher odds of above normal temperatures and equal chances of below, above or near normal precipitation. So, it appears our fire season will likely extend into early fall when we typically get our first healthy rain event.

Here are some steps you can take to help prevent wildfires and keep your home safe.

- Be careful with fire outside such as open burning, campfires or barbecues.

- Use your vehicle's ashtray to extinguish cigarettes instead of tossing it out the window. (There's a healthy fine if you're caught!)

- Avoid taking your vehicle into grassy areas since your hot exhaust system can ignite grass.

- If you live in or near wooded areas, be firewise and remove dead yard materials from around your home, trim tree limbs up off the ground to above your head, and remove wood piles next to the house

Please visit firewise.org for more tips to help your home avoid becoming a wildfire victim.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ted Buehner, NWS Meteorologist, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service
Ted Buehner is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service (NWS) in Seattle, a key customer liaison position.
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