Washington wildfire season has arrived early

Washington firefighters continue monitoring a number of small brushfires that flared up late last week and weekend. It is a phenomenon firefighters are seeing more frequently and earlier in the year as each wildfire season moves into western Washington.

The men and women of Graham Fire & Rescue have been drilling for brushfires multiple times each week. They demonstrated their tactics Monday morning for Q13 News only days after deploying them on a real brushfire near Eatonville on Friday.

"We’re really changed how we respond to these fires," said GFR’s Steve Richards.

The brushfire near Eatonville wasn’t large. The blaze barely chewed through 8 acres, but homes and structures were at one point threatened. Air support from state DNR helped douse the blaze from above. The brushfire took neighbors by surprise.

"It scared me," neighbor Rick Doyle said last week. "It got really close."

Another fire sparked farther north in King County near Auburn during the weekend.

Professional firefighters are used to wildland fires scorching huge areas on the east side of our state, but these past few years have proven the western slopes of the Cascades are also ready to burn.  

"The fires we’ve been facing the past couple years have been a lot bigger than we’ve seen," Richards said.

It is hard to forget the fire and devastation that swept through Pierce County in 2020.

Homes and property were destroyed across multiple communities and counties. Homeowners in western Washington are learning about a concept many in Central and Eastern parts of our state already understand: Defensible space.

The term is used to describe tactics property and homeowners can use to lower the possibility of losing everything to wildfire. Clearing limbs, cutting vegetation away from structures are just some of the ways it is possible homeowners can act now to help save their property before smoke begins to choke their neighborhood skies.

It’s an effort to help make it easier for firefighters to choose which homes they can try to protect, or which homes they might need to abandon should flames come too close.

New legislation being debated in Olympia could ramp up wildfire fighting efforts across the state, and include the purchase of new aircraft and pay for programs that restore forests.

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