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Western Washington should prepare for potentially busy fire season

After the first major wildfire of the season on the east side of the state, worries are growing on the wildfire potential for the west side.

Fire chiefs simply want people to be ready for what many think will never happen, a major wildfire on the west side of Washington State. Many fire departments and fire districts on the west side have already been working to implementing Firewise programs for residents in their communities.

The program encourages residents to protect themselves from wildfire, such as pushing brush and debris away from their homes and remove overhanging branches.  

In a very strange March, the state saw 54 wildfires, 51 of which were on the west side even after a snowy February turned into a dry March. People caused nearly all of them. 

RELATED: Grant County wildfire burning over 18,000 acres, 25% contained

Fire season in Washington doesn't officially begin until April 15.  

A key indicator of a fire season is the number of fire starts. Since the beginning of 2019, Washington has seen 317 fire starts with 128 of them on the west side. That's a tad over 40% and follows a similar percentage to 2018 with 1,732 fire starts, the vast majority of them human caused, according to the U.S. Forest Service. 

Washington's Department of Natural Resources, the largest firefighting agency in the state, stepped up its strategy of getting on fires early, keeping the vast majority to less than 10 acres in 2018. But there were still big fires. 

RELATED: Firefighters certified ahead of western Washington's potentially significant wildfire season

This year, the National Interagency Fire Center based in Boise, Idaho, produced its forecast for the late spring and summer. It shows expectations of a significantly worse fire season on the west side of the state, spreading up and down the west coast as the season wears on. It is inverse to 2018, when the eastern half of the state lit up red, for an above normal season. 

Credit: National Interagency Fire Center
Credit: NIFC


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