• 'It's the most we've ever had' DNR reacts to record wildfire season

    By: Alison Grande

    Updated:

    There have been more fires in Washington State so far this year than ever before, but fewer acres have burned. According to the Department of Natural Resources, there have been 731 fires so far, with more than 200 of them burning on the Western side of the state.

    "It's the most we've ever had on record and we're not even in the worst part of our season," said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands. She says about 32,000 acres have burned so far; last year, by the end of the summer, 400,000 acres were burned. 

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    Franz credits asset management with the reduction in fire damage. 

    "In 2017, we used a new approach to keep our fires small. That was leveraging our air assets early, getting them on fires quick, prepositioning our equipment in those areas that would be hot spots and then training our local, state and federal firefighters together," Franz said.

    KIRO-7 got an up-close look at what it takes to manage state fire resources from the Olympia DNR briefing room.

    "This is the busiest year I've seen," said DNR Fire Operations Chief Aaron Schmidt, "It's the 19th of July and we're seeing fire activity, the number of starts, firefighter fatigue level, that's more indicative of late August. We're a month ahead."

    DNR says there was snow and rain in the early winter and spring months at higher elevations, but not lower elevations, and as a result, the vegetation has already dried out. And it doesn't take much to spark a wildfire. 

    They say 80 percent of wildfires are caused by people. 

    With so much summer left, they're concerned about the risk of lightning strikes starting more fires.
     

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