DNR FIELD NOTES
April 10, 2012
Attention Editors: The following commentary from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is provided for you to use in your publication or on your website.
Media Contact: Janet Pearce, Community Outreach and Education Specialist, 360-902-1122, firstname.lastname@example.org.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of safety
By Aaron Everett
Washington State Forester
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Last year, 94 percent of wildfires in Washington State were caused by people. Wildfires, forest health problems, and underlying forest conditions are deeply intertwined. But it still begins with one spark; be extraordinarily careful with fire at all times.
Due to unusually heavy rain last spring and early summer, Washington’s wildfire season was delayed 3 to 4 weeks. Last year was cooler than normal overall, and there were fewer, shorter periods of hot, dry weather. Even the lightning activity was less than normal.
This year will be different. The Pacific Northwest is not projected to experience the extreme drought currently gripping the southwestern and central United States, but we do expect a return to more normal summer weather patterns. That will mean higher fire danger than last year.
One of our major wildfire concerns is the overall condition of dry forests in eastern Washington. Historically, forests were more diverse, patchier, and more fire-resistant with, generally, wider spacing between the trees. We now have a big, continuous carpet of closely-spaced trees in many cases. Under these conditions, wildfires grow larger and burn hotter than before.
What can you do to help?
If you and your family enjoy spending time in the outdoors, there are easy, important guidelines to remember to help prevent wildfires:
- Always report a forest fire by calling 911.
- Never shoot off fireworks on or onto forest lands.
- Only burn firewood from a local resource – this minimizes bugs and diseases spreading to healthy parts of the forests.
- Only build a campfire in approved fire pits within campgrounds.
- Never build your own fire pit unless it’s on your property; and it’s a good idea to have it inspected by your local fire district or department.
- Never leave a campfire until it is completely out and cool to the touch.
- Always have a shovel and at least 5 gallons of water to extinguish a campfire.
- Outdoor debris burning is the leading human cause of wildfires in Washington.
- It is your responsibility to understand and follow the rules to protect you and your neighbors from an escaped debris burn.
If you live in or near a wooded area, the Firewise program can help protect your home and community from wildfires. The Firewise program offers simple ways community members can work together to prevent their properties from becoming fuel for a wildfire. Residents can reduce the risk of their home’s ignition with simple changes to their homes and immediate surroundings. For example, clearing a space around your home can reduce wildfire threat. Reduce surrounding vegetation and prune large trees. Even something as simple as cleaning gutters and eaves of leaves and debris can prevent an ember from igniting a home.
This year, we hope to keep wildfires in Washington to a minimum by enlisting more help from the public. Using the simple tips above can help us prevent a wildfire from becoming catastrophic.
EDITORS: A photograph of State Forester Aaron Everett is available on request.