State DNR: 70% of all acres burned in 2020 were from wildfires started over Labor Day weekend

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources said fires that started over Labor Day weekend accounted for more than 70% of all acres burned in the state in 2020.

The fires ravaged the town of Malden and burned 283 homes and more than 600,000 acres across Washington. Smoke from the wildfires temporarily gave Western Washington the worst air quality in the world.

To avoid a repeat of last year, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is asking for the public’s help to prevent wildfires over the holiday weekend.

“This is not the time to let our guard down,” Franz said. “Last year, only 93,000 acres had burned by the end of August. What happened next showed us how fast things can change – the Labor Day weekend firestorm burned more than 500,000 acres in less than 36 hours. I’m asking the public to help prevent a repeat of last year’s tragedy by avoiding starting outdoor fires.”

DNR officials said the number of wildfires this year has already exceeded the total number in 2020. There have been at least 1,716 fires that have burned about 635,000 acres, more than the 2018 and 2019 fire season combined.

Historic drought conditions caused the fire season to start months earlier than normal.

“Fire danger east of the Cascades remains very high to extreme in most areas. Unfavorable wind conditions can rapidly turn even the smallest fire into a large one,” a DNR news release said.

The department offered the following general fire-prevention tips and strategies:

  • Avoid starting outdoor fires
  • Don’t park vehicles on grassy areas
  • Make sure dirt bikes and ATVs have operating spark arrestors
  • Create defensible space around your home
  • Reduce dry fuels around your home
  • Clean roof tops and gutters
  • Limb up your trees and remove dead branches
  • Pay attention to and abide by burn ban restrictions