Brush fires in Bellevue, Orondo see start of Washington wildfires

Jun 5, 2023, 10:02 AM | Updated: Jun 6, 2023, 8:16 am

Washington wildfire season...

Wildfires continue to plague southwestern Washington. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

It’s not even summer, and wildfire season is already underway in Washington state after two brush fires — one near Bellevue and the other in the central Washington town of Orondo — broke out over the weekend.

Bellevue Fire crews responded to reports of trees smoldering Sunday afternoon at the Ebsworth Trailhead at 121st Avenue SE and SE 9th Place.

It was the second fire crews said they had put out that day.

“Our beautiful surroundings, with lush forests and scenic landscapes, are a double-edged sword. While they offer tranquility and natural splendor, they also increase the risk of wildfires,” Bellevue Fire said in a statement to the community. “However, by adopting defensible space practices, we can strike a harmonious balance between preserving our environment and safeguarding our lives.”

Another fire outside Orondo, Wash., spread to around 70 acres Saturday before firefighters were able to slow the burn. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

An evacuation order was issued for the area east of Fisher Lane, and by Sunday evening, the fire was about 75% contained.

King County issues Stage 1 Burn Ban with wildfire season approaching

Counties have already started their annual burn bans to prevent wildfires from starting before they begin.

The King County Fire Chief’s Association implemented a Stage 1 burn ban for June 1, with the ban specifically relating to yard debris and residential burning. Skagit County will be implementing its burn ban June 9.

Multiple fire science agencies have already declared the state to already be in “wildfire season,” and the Department of Natural Resources claimed the wet winter and early spring helped grasslands grow taller, making the landscape more susceptible to larger fires.

State officials have burned approximately 2,000 acres to prevent more severe wildfires later this year through multiple controlled burns, beginning in April, according to the state Department of Natural 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.”

Officials are anticipating this year’s wildfire season to stretch on later into the year, possibly all the way into November.

The early fires are due to an unusually warm and dry May, the National Weather Service said, with only about half of the average amount of rainfall. On average, Sea-Tac observes 1.88 inches of rain but in 2023, they only recorded 0.93 inches. The total rain for the year is also about a six-inch deficit, with 18.77 inches of rain being the average Seattle rainfall between January and May, while in 2023, there have only been 12.8 inches. 

KIRO 7 contributed to this report

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Brush fires in Bellevue, Orondo see start of Washington wildfires