Wildland fires are fires caused by nature or humans that result in the uncontrolled destruction of forests, brush, field crops, grasslands, and real and personal property.
The wildland fire season in Washington usually begins in early July and typically culminates in late September with a moisture event; however, wildland fires have occurred in every month of the year. Drought, snow pack, and local weather conditions can expand the length of the fire season. The early and late shoulders of the fire season usually are associated with human-caused fires. Lightning generally is the cause of most fires in the peak fire period of July, August and early September.
Short-term loss caused by a wildland fire can include the destruction of timber, wildlife habitat, scenic vistas, and watersheds; vulnerability to flooding increases due to the destruction of watersheds. Long -term effects include smaller timber harvests, reduced access to affected recreational areas, and destruction of cultural and economic resources and community infrastructure.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources protects 2.5 million acres of state owned land and 10 million acres of land in private ownership through legislative directive [RCW 76.04].
The department fights about 900 wildland fires per year across the state; about 70 percent are in Eastern Washington. Most are small, usually extinguished while they are less than one acre in size. People start most wildland fires on state lands; major causes include arson, recreational fires that get out of control, smoker’s carelessness, debris burning, fireworks and children playing with fire. The major cause of fires on federally protected lands is lightning.
Wildland fires can spread to more than 100,000 acres, depending on a number of factors, and may require thousands of firefighters and several months to extinguish. Federal, state, county, city, and private agencies and private timber companies provide fire protection and firefighting services on forestlands in Washington.
Note: Wildfires can be a result of severe drought, learn more about drought.
Tips and Information about Wildfires
- Emergency Resource Guide (PDF)
- Wildfire Fact Sheet (PDF)
- Learn more about wildland fires in Washington state (PDF)
- Play "Living with Fire", an educational game that puts you in the place of a fire manager. (Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Sciences Laboratory)
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