Washington, Oregon projected to have worst wildfire seasons in the U.S.
SEATTLE – Despite the rainy, cloudy weather, Washington is in the middle of wildfire season. This year, projections show Washington and Oregon have the worst wildfire risks in the nation.
We have already had more than 300 wildfires in our state.
The state is dealing with a $9 billion budget shortfall because of COVID-19, but the Department of Natural Resources says it is prepared to take on a regular fire season.
But if it’s a more severe wildfire season, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says wildfire-fighting costs could surpass the fire suppression budget, forcing the state to tap into its emergency rainy day fund.
Franz says that money should be allocated elsewhere and we should all do our part to make that happen.
“Ideally, our goal is to keep our fires small to make sure they don’t happen in the first place,” she says. “Get on top of them quickly, contain them, keep the cost down, the damage down, the risk to lives down, and then hopefully have very little impact on that rainy day fund so that the state can use that to meet the critical needs we are seeing throughout our state, throughout our communities when it comes to housing, economic crisis, all of the issues that we were facing before that are even more exacerbated because of COVID.”
Franz says 90 percent of fires are man-made. Here are some ways you can help keep the wildfire season at a regular level this year:
- Restricting campfires: if you do one, make sure it fits and complies with burn bans in place. Drown it before you leave the site.
- Try to avoid fireworks.
- This is a time to get your homes more resilient and create defensible space to fight the spread.
Franz says the state fought 1,165 fires last year with 130,000 acres burned.
It was a relatively small year compared to years past, Franz says, and it still cost the state $80 million.