NCW — It appears that all of the 58 fires that started on Monday in Washington state were caused by humans in some way, state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says.
It is believed that the fires were caused by humans, because there were no lightning strikes where the fires started, Franz said.
Franz and Gov. Jay Inslee spoke during a press conference Tuesday afternoon about the 58 fires that started in the state on Monday and their spread.
Of those fires, nine major fires remain, Franz said. More than 300,000 acres burned in Washington state on Monday alone, more than double the amount of land that burned all of last year.
The fires were being fanned by strong winds and dry heat, Inslee said. And the danger of more fires remains. It is so dry right now that slightest spark could ignite a blaze, the governor said.
“If you can, avoid being outside for anything that will even cause a spark,” Inslee said. “I hope people can avoid those conditions. It’s not just fires, it is literally sparks that can cause these fires when these conditions are this dry.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has stepped in to help with three of the biggest fires in the state, including the Cold Spring Fire, said Robert Ezelle, state Emergency Management Division director. FEMA funding will help reimburse the state for up to 75% of the cost of fire suppression and response.
Inslee warned people to remember that federal assistance applies more to public goods than private homes. As for what resources the state will bring to bear, Inslee said he hopes they will know by the end of the week.
“We know how traumatic this is for folks,” Inslee said. “I can’t tell people 24 hours after the fires what will be available, but we’ll obviously look at all we can do for these families.”
This hot and dry weather is not over, though, and will continue through the rest of the week with potential wind gusts up to 60 mph in some areas, Franz said. The winds are particularly dangerous, because they are grounding fire-suppression aircraft.
People need to make sure they’re not setting debris piles on fires, starting campfires or shooting guns in remote places, Franz said. Drivers should also check their vehicles to make sure there are no loose chains and that they don’t park on dry grass.
The Washington State Patrol is reminding motorists to not flick cigarettes or any other burning material out of their vehicles.
“Much of the state is under extreme fire danger, both east and west,” Franz said. “These fires are a reminder that the wildfires are not an east or west issue, it is an entire Washington state issue.”
Many homes have been destroyed by the fires burning across the state, Inslee said, but he did not give an exact number of structures. About 80% of the town of Malden in Whitman County is gone.
“I’ve learned that the trauma to people of losing a home is something that is very visceral and long lasting for people,” Inslee said. “And it is much more than economic loss. And that’s why I hope we can all be having these folks in our hearts today and I hope people can help out in some way.”