Washington shatters records in midst of ‘early, alarming’ start to wildfire season
Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz visited with tribal leadership and firefighting crews battling the 2-square-mile Sherwood fire in Wellpinit, Wash., on Thursday, addressing a troubling early start to the state’s wildfire season.
While Washington typically sees numerous fires during the dryer, hotter parts of the summer months, Franz warned that “this year is quite notably different,” thanks to record-breaking temperatures and an “unprecedented” drought for nearly the entire state. The end result has been what she described as “an early and alarming start to the fire season.”
According to the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington has already seen 1,000 fires of varying sizes this season. That marks an all-time record, and is “almost double the 10-year average” for that period of time, Franz said Thursday.
Statewide, over 375 square miles have burned in less than two months.
“That is double what burned in all of 2019, and we’re only in July,” Franz noted.
In Okanogan County, people are grappling with the worst air quality they’ve experienced at this point in July in 15 years of available data. In Winthrop, residents have been sandwiched between a pair of large fires to its eastern and western edges, at one point experiencing the worst measured air quality on the entire planet.
That’s not likely to change anytime soon, either, with the state-run Washington Smoke Blog predicting little relief from an upcoming “scorching weekend with little wind.” The hope is that “a decent amount of rain” in the forecast for next week will aid in firefighting efforts in the area.
As of publishing, there are at least 10 active wildfires burning across Eastern Washington. The Sherwood fire is considered to be the largest active burn at the moment.