Washington state has already had a busy wildfire season, and that’s before the full effects of summer heat and the coronavirus pandemic kick in.
State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says the pandemic will require special precautions to keep firefighters and support crews safe. Franz says already this year there have been 263 wildfires reported in Washington, the majority caused by humans. That compares to a 10-year average of 103 fires by this time.
Franz says more people at home working on their yards is resulting in burn piles in unprecedented numbers.
The potential for wildfires is especially high in eastern Washington this year, where the weather is expected to be warmer and drier than usual. Normal fire conditions are expected in western Washington.
Last year’s fire season was mild, but that means there is a significant amount of fuel on the ground.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic already reduced the amount of training for fire crews, and Franz says Washington can expect less assistance this year from federal agencies and other partners in battling wildfires.
The DNR has already recorded its first case of a firefighter testing positive for the virus – a seasonal firefighter in northeastern Washington. To prevent additional cases, the state will embrace federal guidelines on social distancing and other reforms. (AP)