Friday, August 9, 2013

Washington Wildfires Update: 2012 vs. 2013

The Puget Sound region didn't receive any rain in July for the first time in 50 years. This record setting dry spell continues and has us Pacific Northwesterners running wild maximizing every minute of gleefully ideal weather. Climbing and mountaineering conditions have been absolutely splitter, as climbers like to say!

All this great weather doesn't bode well for the eastern side of our state however. Last year the western United States was hammered with fires and Washington was among the worst hit. I used InciWeb to review fire activity from last season. By August 9th last year Washington had only one fire. The biggest burst of fire activity was in September. Of the 17 fires last season in Washington 11 were started by lightning; most of those in one massive thunderstorm that rocked the whole region. The first fire of the season was caused by humans. It started on August 14th and burned 11,299 acres. The first fire of this season started on July 4th and, not surprisingly, was also human caused.

This season we have already had 6 fires in Washington. Two of these fires were started by Humans, two are currently of unexplained origin, and only the Moore Point fire is due to lightning. The human ignited Colockum Tarps fire is the biggest fire so far this season and had burned 80, 801 acres by 7 pm on August 8th.

With some substantial fires already raging, this season is already well ahead of last year. Even the west side of the mountains is beginning to see burn bans in effect. On the west side we forget these happen because they are so infrequent. Let’s hope some rain comes to knock down the current fires and to help us prevent another late season explosion like last year. In the meantime, as all of us climbers, mountaineers, and outdoor enthusiasts race to the hills in this great weather, it’s imperative to remember that our duty is to pay attention to fire conditions and regulations just like we would avalanche or trail conditions. It’s part of being a good steward of the land we all enjoy.

--Tim Page, Program Coordinator

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