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State says pandemic's impact could make bad fire season worse

The state had to cancel firefighting training sessions planned for April and May due to the coronavirus.

TUMWATER, Wash. — State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said the state’s battle with coronavirus could make what's predicted to be a bad fire season, even worse.

She said the state canceled many of the firefighting training sessions planned for April and May.

Fire camps, known for housing and feeding hundreds of firefighters during major events, are expected to be limited in size this summer.

“Obviously, this is not ideal,” said Franz.

Franz also said the state has had nearly three times the average number of fires by mid-May.

She said people self-quarantining at home are partially to blame.

RELATED: Washington state preparing to fight wildfires in the time of coronavirus

“They have time on their hands and they are doing yard work,” said Franz, “And unfortunately they are burning those debris piles and they're getting out of control."

Franz said she was grateful for state legislators who provided the Department of Natural Resources funding to increase the state’s aerial firefighting fleet.

Franz said the state’s ten helicopters will be called upon more than usual this year.

RELATED: Washington commissioner pitches insurance surcharge to fight wildfires