NCW — Washington state might be in a drought, but there is enough moisture to keep the burn level at moderate in Chelan and Douglas counties.
The Chelan County Commission passed a resolution Tuesday to raise the burn level to moderate, said Bob Plumb, Chelan County fire marshal.
Moderate burn risk means burning yard waste and orchard debris won’t be allowed without a permit from the state Department of Ecology. Campfires and barbecues are still allowed and orchardists can still burn their prunings, he said.
“All the fire chiefs are telling me that we’re right in for where we normally would be or even a little bit behind for our fire dangers right now,” Plumb said. “We keep getting moisture. It makes the grass grow right now down here in the valley.”
It looks like it might get hot in the lower elevations in the coming weeks and it is definitely possible we could enter a high fire danger in Wenatchee later in June, Plumb said. A high fire danger would prevent people from having campfires and barbecues.
Douglas County residents should remember that despite the unusual moist weather patterns fire events can still occur, said Kurt Blanchard, Douglas County fire marshal.
“Especially when we get a solid day or a couple of days of intermittent warming the grasses dry out real quick,” Blanchard said.
Various agencies are predicting that Washington will have an above average fire season, he said. In July and August, it is likely grasses and other debris will dry and present a risk.
Residents should take advantage of the current weather to prepare for the upcoming fire season by creating defensible space around their houses, Blanchard said. It is also important to keep addresses clearly posted on homes and make them reflective if possible.
“Especially out in rural areas where sometimes darkness or smoke conditions can obscure addressing,” he said.
Reflective address signs are available from fire districts, Blanchard said.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency drought declaration in May for the Chelan County area, according to the state Department of Ecology. The snowpack for the Wenatchee Valley was at about 20 to 30 percent of average, according to the National Weather Service. Quite a bit of snow fell in the winter, 35.5 inches, but it was mostly fluffy and dry with little moisture in it.
Washington state is supposed to have an above average potential for large wildfires this year due to the drought conditions, according to a June 1 report from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
Grasses and brush are expected to continue to grow through June creating a lot of potential fuel and then dry in July, according to the report.