SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has closed all public lands it manages east of the Cascades due to high fire danger.
“We had a historic fire event yesterday – 58 new wildfire starts and nine large fires on the landscape, compounded by hurricane-level winds,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. “That dangerous combination led to smoke-filled skies and low visibility, which grounded our aircraft and limited our ability to fight the fire from the air."
With high winds and hot, dry weather, the risk for wildfires is extremely dangerous. Those conditions make the fire unpredictable and make it challenging to control, DNR said.
Gov. Jay Inslee said that as of Tuesday, 330,000 acres have burned across the state in just 24 hours. Inslee said that the amount of land burned in the last 24 hours is more than what the state has seen in the last 12 wildfire seasons.
The closure of recreation lands is to prevent further spread of the fires, as most are believed to be human-caused, and to keep Washingtonians safe.
Some areas had already been closed for recreation due to the Evans Canyon Fire in Yakima and Kittitas counties.
The closure will last until Friday and DNR staff may extend the date for opening.
Since there was no lightning in the area, the majority of the fires are presumed to be human-caused, DNR said. The agency has responded to 106 fires caused by recreation this year alone.
Currently, a statewide burn ban is in place on all forestland under DNR's fire protection.
The Department of Natural Resources recommends the following to prevent wildfires:
- Don't park on dry grass as heat from exhaust systems in your car can ignite the dry grass.
- Know the current wildfire risk and weather conditions and make responsible decisions based on that.
- Do not set off fireworks, use incendiary ammunition or exploding targets on DNR land. This is illegal, whether a wildfire is burning or not.
- Campfires are only allowed when there is not a burn ban in place.
- Never walk away from a smoldering campfire. Put it out before leaving.
With wildfire smoke moving west toward Seattle, officials are advising residents to keep their windows shut and stay indoors as much as possible.
Wildfire smoke is full of small particles that can get into your eyes and lungs causing health problems including chest pain, headaches, or an irregular heartbeat.
The Washington Department of Health encourages people to stay inside and away from pollution when air quality levels become unhealthy. Keeping your windows and doors closed and using an indoor high-efficiency HEPA filter can help keep indoor air as clean as possible.
Keep up to date with burn bans, air quality and areas of wildfires here.
If you are being evacuated from your home and need assistance, contact the Red Cross at 509-670-5331.