NCW — In its monthly wildfire outlook released last week, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise predicted large fire potential in parts of Eastern Washington.
Dead fuels have reached fire season moisture values and are capable of supporting large fires along the eastern slopes of the northern Cascades, the Columbia Basin and the Palouse, the report said.
Warmer-than-average temperatures are expected in August and autumn for the Pacific Northwest and much of the western United States.
“Normally, we end up with our large fires and our biggest fire potential in August and September and that’s just because normally ... that’s where we go the longest without having rain,” said Rob Allen, forest fire management officer with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
He added that longer days can equal more sun heating and drying fuels.
“There’s enough heating to get some instability going and, if there’s some moisture added in, then you get lightning and that’s what (causes) the majority of our starts for fires on the Forest Service land,” Allen said.
A lightning storm passed through North Central Washington July 23, sparking several fires. The largest — the Desert Canyon Fire outside Orondo — was contained after less than a week at 1,467 acres. Some are still burning in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. All are estimated at under 200 acres.
Allen said the fires were mostly small because of a high amount of moisture in fuels, like grass and timbers, due to rainy days scattered throughout the summer and a relatively dry winter.
“This year is different in that we’ve had these little pulses of moisture come through; and although we have a really good grass crop right now, it’s still fairly green and that’s what we saw with all of our fires that did start over that last lightning storm,” Allen said. “Even with a lot of wind on them — we had some very windy days at the end of last week — they just don’t want to move.”
Some agencies are taking precautions as conditions dry.
On Monday, the fire center elevated the National Preparedness Level to Level 3 in response to increased fires nationwide. The levels help assure fire resources are available to respond to new fires. Effective Aug. 1, campfire restrictions are in place within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.