OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) responded to more than 40 new wildfire incidents across the state today. In an unusual weather pattern, temperatures have been higher on the state’s westside than in the east, and now erratic weather, and possibly lightning, have substantially elevated wildfire risks in most western and central Washington counties.
The largest new wildfire in the state is the Union Valley Fire near Chelan in north-central Washington, which has grown to more than 700 acres since it started Tuesday. Today, the lightning-generated blaze led Chelan County officials to advise over a hundred resident in homes north of Chelan today to evacuate. The blaze, which involves several local jurisdictions working with DNR firefighters, also prompted the year’s second statewide mobilization of firefighters under the Fire Resources Mobilization Plan. More than 400 firefighters are responding. The potential dangers of the Union Valley Fire to homes and infrastructure like utility lines also prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency today to release funds to support firefighting operations on that fire.
Most of the other fires that broke out today were small, under 10 acres in size, though many were potentially dangerous. As of 4:15 p.m., the wildfires of note which local, federal and DNR crews are fighting include: Union Valley, Chelan County, 700+ acres( 0% contained) Mineral Hill, Okanogan County, 47 acres (70% contained) Aeneas North, Okanogan County, less than 5 acres (50% contained) Clark Lake, Stevens County, 5 acres, ( 0% contained) Unnamed fire, Ahtanum State Forest, Yakima County, 5 acres and growing (0% contained)
DNR fire officials warn that the entire state will see dangerous fire conditions over the next 48 hours due to heat, dry conditions and unstable weather than can produce lightning strikes.
“We are very concerned about the potential for lightning to generate new wildfires in the central mountain and western counties where the heat is at record levels and the vegetation is extremely dry,” said Mark Gray, acting Manager, DNR Resource Protection Division. “We’re equally concerned about the extraordinary fire danger in all areas west of the Cascades, where we have not seen fire risk like this in many years.”
Many Washington counties have fire hazard levels rated as “high” to “extreme” this weekend due to dry weather and low moisture levels in grasses, trees, and other vegetation. Check local conditions and restrictions by calling 1-800-323-BURN (2876) or go to: http://fortress.wa.gov/dnr/firedanger
DNR’s wildfire mission Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 12.7 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands in Washington. DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department. During fire season, this includes more than 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 375 seasonal workers. DNR also participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.
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