Welcome to the fire season of 2019. As the temperatures increase, the fuels dry out and by the middle of next month, fire officials say the forests will be tinder-dry. The state's first brush fire was reported in Cowlitz County in March and ever since, state fire officials have been sounding the warning.

Last year was a rough year, according to Janet Pierce with the State Department of Natural Resources, who says that in 2018 state and local firefighters battled a record 1,850 wildfires that burned some 440,000 acres. Pierce says the biggest challenge for state officials and lawmakers is how to improve forest health to help prevent forest fires.
Meantime, firefighter training in Naches wrapped up over the weekend and state officials say they're hoping everyone is careful with anything that could start a blaze, since 90 to 95 percent of the fires in the state are caused by humans.

On Monday the state issued expanded the drought emergency statewide. A news release from the Washington Department of Ecology explains:

"Gov. Jay Inslee expanded the drought emergency declaration to cover nearly half of Washington state due to worsened, poor water supply conditions around the state and warmer and drier weather predictions through the summer.

Snowpack conditions are currently less than 50 percent of average for this time of year. Washington State Department of Ecology experts expect the warmer, drier weather will cause the already-diminished snowpack to melt more quickly, reducing water availability this summer when it is needed most for farms, communities and fish. Despite this past week’s rain, rainfall totals for the state remain below normal.

The following 24 watersheds are now added to the emergency drought declaration:

Chelan, Colville, Cowlitz, Deschutes, Elwha-Dungeness, Entiat, Grays-Elochoman, Kennedy-Goldsborough, Kettle, Lower Chehalis, Lower Skagit-Samish, Lower Yakima, Lyre-Hoko, Naches, Nooksack, Queets-Quinault, Quilcene-Snow, Skokomish-Dosewallips, Soleduc, Stillaguamish, Upper Chehalis, Upper Skagit, Wenatchee, and Willapa.

The governor announced the initial emergency drought declaration April 4 for the Methow, Okanogan and Upper Yakima basins."


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