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Wildfire risk expected to rise after Washington 'blessed' by cool, wet July

Though relatively calm, state officials are warning there's still a threat of wildfires in Washington as summer progresses.

The wildfire outlook in Washington state wasn't promising heading into summer. But cool, somewhat wetter weather helped lower the risk, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said Tuesday

"Fortunately, we have been blessed in July with overcast skies and rain," Franz said. 

The state, she says, is around the normal level of wildfire risk for this time of year. Many of the fires have been "kept at bay." 

Fire danger as of mid-July is low around Puget Sound, according to the Department of Natural Resources. It remains moderate in the northwest and southwest portions of the state, as well as northeast and southeast. The bulk of central Washington and eastern Washington remains at high fire danger. 

We saw a warm June, including a record-breaking 95 degrees early in the month and the hottest day of the year so far. However, the National Interagency Fire Center reported July 1 that the warmth was followed up by a cooling trend as June came to a close. Precipitation was less than average for much of the month, but widespread rain at the end of June helped mitigate wildfires and bring fire danger back closer to normal. 

The Interagency Fire Center said to expect warmer-than-average temperatures in the beginning of July, noting that fire danger would rise and create an environment for "large costly fires." 

So far, July weather hasn't detoured away from normal, Franz said. That is expected to change. 

August is still expected to be a "significant fire month," with hot, dry weather, Franz said. The Interagency Fire Center said as much in its July report, noting fire season will "peak" in August across the West. 

This year, the Department of Natural Resources has responded to more than 900 fires, according to Franz. This time last year, that number was approximately 400-500, she added.