What does it take to prepare for fire season

Stock photo
Liv Stecker
Special to the S-E

In 2015, the State of Washington experienced the worst wildland fire season in recorded history. More than a million acres burned, costing millions in state and federal funds and displacing hundreds of families. The 2017 fire season in Washington surpassed 2015 in costs - by mid September more than $2 billion had been expended on firefighting.

Looking ahead to the 2018 fire season, precipitation is at or above normal levels for this time of year, which is great, until later in the summer, when we see higher-than-average temperatures each year, that promote fuel growth and drying, leading to more intense fires and longer burning seasons.

We’ve watched the news every year as communities are threatened and hundreds of thousands of acres go up in smoke, but what happens before the summer conflagrations that make headlines? Before the snow is gone from the lowlands, seasonal firefighters are already preparing for the months to come.

State and federal career firefighters spend fall and winter months, when the temperature is lowered and the relative humidity of fuels (moisture content in wood and brush) is up, to perform prescribed burns on public lands. These controlled fires creep through the dead undergrowth and clean up materials that would be available later in the year for explosive fire growth.

There’s more of this story to read online or in the March 14, 2018 S-E.
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