State starts planned burns of 2,100 acres to minimize forest fire damage

Apr 4, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: 12:05 pm


(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

State workers are preparing to set fire to more than 2,100 acres in central and eastern Washington as part of the state’s effort to mitigate wildfires.

Will Rubin, a spokesperson with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, said prescribed burns create healthier forests by “reducing fuel loads and creating a more defensible, more resilient space against wildfires but also reintroducing and remixing vital nutrients into the soil.”

State expands wildfire prevention program from eastern to western WA

Prescribed burns are a standard tool used by land managers and conservation groups to clear out dead or overcrowded plants that could be fuel for wildfires. By clearing them out before wildfire season in the summer, the forest management department says that the prescribed fires will be smaller, easier to control, and will require fewer resources to fight.

Prescribed burns can also improve the health of older trees, support new and current wildlife habitats, and recycle soil nutrients back into the ground.

The series of seven burns will take place over the next several weeks, running from May into early June. Successful implementation of all seven burns will be subject to weather and ground conditions, as well as the availability of personnel and other resources.

“Prescribed fire is one of the most important tools we have to restore the health of our forests,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “Prescribed fire is one of the most cost-effective ways for us to remove excess fuels and create defensible space for wildland firefighters as they fight to protect our homes and communities each summer.”

DNR ended a 15-year pause of broadcast burning on state trust lands last year with three fuel reduction burns in northeast Washington.

“These new agreements to work collaboratively and to share resources across boundaries not only strengthen the existing partnerships we have across Washington, but will enable us to forge new ones as we continue to invest in a prescribed fire around the state,” said Prescribed Fire Program Manager Jeff Dimke.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources said it will notify locals of the exact locations and impacted areas immediately preceding the burns. Officials said the exact timing of the burns will largely depend on safe weather conditions.

The list of seven planned prescribed burns includes:

·         Airport: 659 acres near Glenwood in Klickitat County

·         Black Diamond – Aeneas Valley: 142 acres near Tonasket in Okanogan County

·         Black Diamond – Havillah: 398 acres near Tonasket in Okanogan County

·         Boggs Pit: 240 acres near Deer Park in Spokane County

·         Plumback: 195 acres near Cle Elum in Kittitas County

·         Sinlahekin: 140 acres near Loomis in Okanogan County

·         South Park: 370 acres near Glenwood in Klickitat County

Rubin told KIRO Newsradio the outlook for this year’s wildfire season appears “encouraging” for now.

“Early indications are that we’re looking at a ‘normal’ fire season,” Rubin said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘good’ fire season, but the early signs are more encouraging than they may have been the last couple of years.”

He said continuing snow and rain could also mean a later start to the season.

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