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Scorched Earth: Why Washington wildfires are getting bigger

"Scorched Earth" examines how climate change and old forest management practices are impacting wildfires now – and how new practices may lead us out.

The wildfire trends are unmistakable in Washington state and around the western United States. There are more wildfires, they are bigger and they are more and more devastating. Every year, there is more scorched Earth.

We explain why things are getting worse and what's being done to make wildfire less dangerous to the survival of the forest and to ourselves.

Read more on the stories featured in this KING 5 special presentation below.

Increasing number of western Washington wildfires a worrying trend amid stressed forests

Washington wildfires are starting earlier in the year and with higher frequency. State officials hope to help forests regain their health before it's too late.

Insects, disease making Washington forests unhealthy 

In 2019, there were 658,000 acres of sick and dying trees in Washington as a result of insects and disease.

How Washington is helping diseased forests get healthier 

Prescribed burning is a key tool that Washington crews use to remove smaller trees and low-level vegetation, which reduces the threat of massive wildfires.

What drives big wildfires in western Washington? This meteorological phenomenon is a factor 

Western Washington doesn’t always get strong east winds, but when the winds do arrive, they can lead to huge wildfires.

UW researchers study how wildfire helps forests rejuvenate

Identifying how forests regenerate from fires, and what conditions spark them in the first place, can help the DNR estimate how often they might occur in the future.

Nearly one year later, fire survivors still struggle with mental fallout from 2020's devastating wildfires 

2020 was particularly devastating not only because of the lasting impact on the landscape but also because of the toll on people's mental and emotional wellbeing that may take a lifetime to recover.

Invisible victims: Bear cubs rescued from recent Washington wildfires

Animal rescue workers say the number of wildfire-related injuries is growing every year.

Human-caused fires up 55% compared to 2020, state says 

In Washington, human-caused fires like those started by cigarettes, campfires and more account for a total of 737 fires.

Whidbey Island residents take wildfire precautions under national program 

Communities in western Washington are clearing vegetation to prevent wildfires, under the guidance of the national Firewise program.

When wildfires erupt in the west, their impacts can be felt far and wide 

Smoke from Oregon and California fires can travel all the way to New York City. Scientists say because of our changing climate, the problem will only get worse.

Can a forest survive a wildfire? Washington experts are testing it

Experts with the state's Department of Natural Resources are treating acres of forests in an effort to make them healthier and more fire resistant.

KING 5’s Eric Wilkinson, KREM’s Whitney Ward and KGW’s Keely Chalmers and Christine Pitawanich contributed.

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