Inland Northwest In For A Tough Fire Season

SPOKANE VALLEY — The Department of Natural Resources is predicting a late breaking but fast burning fire season in Eastern Washington this year.

Officials are saying our wet spring has set the stage for an increase in the number of wildfires. The snow and rain this year has nourished a bumper crop of weeds and grasses. That serves as fuel that helps fire start and quickly grow out of control.

A train caused fire that burned near Marshall last summer got its start in grass along the tracks. This year you can expect even more blazes to spread out of control because of our waist high weeds.

“This is a lot taller grass than we have experienced in previous years, and it seems like a lot more grass than we have had in the past,” Guy Gifford, from the Washington Department of Natural Resources said. Spokane’s rain gage totals are running more than an inch higher than normal. It’s been the second wettest water year since 1999, and these unusually taller weeds are what help fires grow.

“The light and flashy fuels are what we call our fire carrier,” Gifford said. “It’s what carries a fire from spot to spot to spot.”

Because this year’s fires will have more mobility because of the tall grasses, without a rapid initial attack a small blaze could quickly grow into a large one.

“Initial attack is always quick, especially in the light fuels as we get into our fire season, a quick initial attack will always be needed,” Gifford said.

Taller weeds can also allow flames to reach the ladder fuels, the low lying branches that can carry a fire into the tree tops. Once its up there there’s not much ground crew can do to stop it.