‘We owe it to those firefighters’: Senator Cantwell calls for more weather forecasting tools to fight wildfires

SPOKANE, Wash. — More than 6740,000 acres burned in Washington last year. Firefighters work hard to put out fires, but another critical resource to help them do their jobs is weather forecasting.

Senator Maria Cantwell was in Spokane at the National Weather Service on Wednesday to discuss the importance of the tools to keep communities safe this fire season

Forecasters at the National Weather Service are constantly evaluating the weather and the threat of fires. They play a critical role in helping firefighters do their jobs and stay safe.

“That accuracy and planning provides for a more efficient and effective initial attack with the ultimate goal of keeping those incidents small and not putting folks in harm’s way,” Spokane County Fire District 8 Assistant Chief Chris Wyrobek said.

Forecasters are out on the ground with firefighters to give them the best data and information to fight wildfires.

Senator Cantwell recently introduced the Fire Ready Nation Act to provide more tools to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We owe it to those firefighters to make sure that the very best data about the changing winds, the changing of conditions that might turn into what we call the blow out conditions that may change drastically,” Cantwell said.

The National Interagency Fire Center released its wildfire outlook for the summer on Wednesday as well. The threat to central and eastern Washington becomes more significant in July.

“Each year wildfire results in an irreplaceable loss of life, homes, and property. They destroy our crops and timber, and obviously smoke damage,” Cantwell said.

Cantwell also spoke about the infrastructure bill that was passed last year. It includes funding for federal programs that involve reducing fuel and restoration of burn areas. Part of the funding also goes to helping replace the grid.

The bill also includes funding to upgrade forecasting tools for NOAA such as its smoke sensor detector. The device detects smoke which gives communities time to plan ahead.

“For people on the ground here in Spokane, and this fire season, which we know will play out over many years of higher challenges for us. These are precious resources that will help NOAA help our firefighters with better forecasting tools. More incident meteorologist impeded on the ground, and provide real time science information to help us,” Cantwell said.

READ: New tool assesses wildfire risk for Inland Northwest homes