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‘No reason’ to expect severe wildfire season in Washington

A girl works on a drawing next to an unused viewing scope as a smoky haze obscures the Space Needle and downtown Seattle behind, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

We might be complaining about the rain right now, but it every bit that falls is reducing the chance of a heavy wildfire season across Washington state.

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It has been a wetter than normal spring. Despite some early dry days in April, May and June have been wetter than normal, and the long range forecast for the summer looks normal.

University of Washington climatologist Cliff Mass told the Ag Information Network it’s a great way to enter the traditional wildfire season.

“The reservoirs are all in excellent shape,” he said. “Soil moisture is in good shape, and precipitation is running above normal. Those are all positive elements.”

That’s especially prevalent in Eastern Washington, which Mass said has been really wet this spring. The snow pack also looks good.

Mass said there is no reason to believe that we will have a bad wildfire season.

“There will be wildfires, but no reason at this point to suggest that there’s a greater chance than normal of wildfires, or to have a particularly severe wildfire season,” he said. “There’s no reason to expect it.”

It’s a much different forecast than we have seen in recent years.

“This is not like 2015, where it was the end of the world going into it,” Mass said. “It was extraordinarily dry that spring and extraordinarily warm; it’s nothing like that.”

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Another interesting wrinkle in this year’s fire season forecast is the potential for fewer people in the woods. Concerns over COVID-19 could keep the number of campers down, which means fewer opportunities for human-caused fires.

“Humans cause a lot of the fires,” Mass said. “If you have less humans running around doing stuff, that may actually reduce the fire ignitions. That’s another factor.”

The wildfire risk right now is low, which is a great way to head into the middle of June and early July.

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