Wildfire danger unusually high for Western Washington

COVINGTON, Wash. – Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are pushing for solutions to help limit the impact of wildfires, especially in our state.

Sen. Maria Cantwell presented a map at a Senate committee hearing Thursday showing unusually high fire danger in Western Washington.

Just last week, firefighters swarmed to Grant County to tackle a massive fire near Royal City. It’s just the start of what could prove to be a tough fire season.

Plus, conditions across Washington are quickly turning more favorable for wildfire, including here on the west side of the Cascades. Local fire department are also preparing for the threat of fire near neighborhoods.

“It is deceptive because in the next weeks what we see green behind us is going to be brown,” said Capt. Kyle Ohashi from Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority.

Firefighters say while wildfire season has already come to Central Washington, the threat for the western slopes is only growing.

“We’re going to start seeing it over here,” said Ohashi.

That’s why some Puget Sound-area fire departments are changing up their tools all to be ready for wildfires near neighborhoods.

“This is basically just a fairly heavy-duty pick-up truck we’ve outfitted with a pump and several hundred gallons of water,” said Ohashi.

The truck, about 5 years old, has tools onboard to help local firefighters get a handle on wildfires.

Plus, firefighters say homeowners can take steps now to prepare their properties. The concept is called creating defensible space, where homeowners should remove branches that hang over rooftops, clear away flammable items in and around decks and remove or trim vegetation near windows. Those are all ways that can help reduce the chance of a wildfire engulfing your home.

“Ideally, if you can keep things 5 to 10 feet from your home, that greatly reduces the chance that even if they do catch fire it’s not going to spread to your siding,” said Ohashi.

And while this early taste of summer weather may make for beautiful days, the warmth is quickly drying out vegetation, which means more fuel is ready to burn if a spark comes near.

“We’ve always been known as the Evergreen State, but we see a lot of conditions and situations that prove that to be wrong,” said Ohashi.