MNR expects a “normal” wildfire season for 2022. Here’s what that means

With fire season still months away, the Department of Natural Resources and others are already working to prepare.

SEATTLE — The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is preparing for what it expects to be a “normal” wildfire season in 2022, but even so, fire activity is still expected on both sides of the Cascades.

“This time of year is what we call our training season and our preparation season,” said Angie Lane, deputy director of MNR’s plans and information division.

The department spends the spring months preparing its staff and deciding where it will send resources during the summer months. MNR is also acquiring more firefighting resources through contracts and completing all of the agreements it has with cooperators and partners.

Precisely what this year’s fire season will look like is difficult to predict, but early conditions show it will likely be a “normal” season – not extraordinarily different from the past two years. Yet this “normal” baseline has changed.

“As we know, even the normal fire season here includes a lot of fire activity,” said Brian Harvey of the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

The causes of fires in the Pacific Northwest have also changed in recent decades. More often than not, fires are driven by weather as the land gets hotter and drier, Harvey said.

“It’s no surprise that this creates very favorable conditions for fires to spread across the landscape,” Harvey said.

Another driver of large wildfires is the decrease in the number of small fires in fire-prone landscapes.

“Fire plays an ecological role supporting the forest, grasslands, shrubs, across western North America,” Harvey said.

Smaller, more frequent fires remove fuel buildup like dead branches, brush, and excess vegetation. If fires happen less and less often, more fuel builds up, which means when a fire starts, they’re bigger than they otherwise would have been, Harvey said.

In anticipation of fire season, the DNR is currently working to hire and fill the positions the department added with new funding from the Legislature. Lane says he is also prepared with 120 ready-to-use engines, as well as 10 medium helicopters to deliver water, a helicopter for observation, single-engine air tankers and other technology.

Although peak fire season is months away, MNR staff have been battling small fires recently, likely caused by burning debris, and are asking people to be aware of the fires.

“These are small fires, but we are still chasing and chasing these fires,” Lane said. “We really want the public to pay attention to things like burning debris, make sure they do it safely. Help us to help them. Keep the fires small this spring, let’s not make the fires bigger than necessary this year. »

To learn more about how to prepare your home for wildfires, click here.

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