Drought declaration ended, but wildfire risk remains
Recreate responsibly this summer to protect public lands, wildlife habitat, public health, and local communities
Unanticipated cool, wet weather in May and June prompted the Washington Department of Ecology to cancel the drought declaration for Central and Eastern Washington in mid-July. Water supply conditions have been much better than expected, and as a result, no part of Washington is experiencing a drought emergency.
Visit the U.S. Drought Monitor website for the latest information on the location and intensity of drought across the state and country.
More vegetation = More fuel for wildfires
While rain has reduced Washington’s early-season fire risk, spring rains and the end of a drought declaration do not eliminate the risk of wildfires this summer. Wildfires depend on many variables, including ignition sources, fuels, and short-term weather patterns. When there are several dry days in a row with low relative humidity and windy conditions, it quickly becomes a favorable environment for wildfires to spread.
In some places, a high accumulation of moisture may worsen fire risk later in the season. For example, higher levels of winter snowpack and soaking springs support rapid growth of vegetation that could become wildfire fuel in later months. In addition to native vegetation, invasive weeds can become abundant with wet spring weather, including cheatgrass.
Cheatgrass commonly grows in the lower Columbia Valley, down into the Kittitas, and in the Okanogan. It is an especially fire-risky weed, as it takes just about an hour of hot, dry conditions for it to become flammable. More dry plant fuel means intense fires can spread fast, stressing fire crews with limited resources.
Recreate Responsibly to prevent wildfires
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) stewards over 700,000 acres of public land in Eastern Washington which are managed to protect lands and water for wildlife and people. To help reduce the risk of fire on state wildlife areas and water access areas, WDFW implemented an emergency order in mid-July that imposes restrictions in Eastern Washington.
- Fires or campfires, including those in fire rings. Personal camp stoves and lanterns fueled by propane, liquid petroleum, or liquid petroleum gas are allowed.
- Discharge of firearms for target shooting or other purposes by anyone not engaged in lawful hunting.
- Smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle. Do not throw lit cigarettes out your window.
- Welding and operating chainsaws, including the use of an acetylene torch or other open flame.
- Operating a motor vehicle away from developed roads. Parking is permitted within designated parking areas, including developed campgrounds and trailheads; and in areas without vegetation that are within 10 feet of roadways.
All restrictions will remain in effect until further notice. Any changes to these regulations will be posted to WDFW’s website. Fireworks are prohibited year-round on all WDFW-managed lands around the state. Throwing a lit cigarette or any other burning material from a motor vehicle on a state highway is also prohibited year-round.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources has a fire dashboard that is active throughout the fire season to show up-to-date information on wildfires affecting Washington state including weekly fire weather briefings, fuels/fire danger reports, and safety reports. The Inciweb website provides information on large wildfires burning throughout the nation, including Washington.
For more information about fires and fire prevention on public lands, visit the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ website or the U.S. Forest Service website.