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
Wildfire Fact Sheet (PDF)
Rebuilding After a Wildfire is a fact sheet designed to help the general public understand the conditions that can ignite and spread a wildfire. It explains how wildfires can spread from vegetation to structures and also describes some mitigation methods that help keep structures safe from wildfire. (PDF)
Home Builder’s Guide to Construction in Wildfire Zones is a collection of technical fact sheets providing information to home builders about wildfire behavior and recommendations for structure design and construction in the wildland/urban interface. (PDF)
At Home in the Woods - Lessons Learned in the Wildland/Urban Interface is a book published after a series of wildfires occurred in the western U.S. It documents some of the most innovative fire mitigation “Best Practices” currently in use in the wildland/urban interface. (PDF)
Wildfires Fact Sheet for Kids: Fact sheet for youth about what to do before, during, and after a disaster.
Play "Living with Fire", an educational game that puts you in the place of a fire manager. (Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Sciences Laboratory)
FEMA Course: Wildfire Mitigation Basics for Mitigation Staff: The goal of this independent study module is to help Hazard Mitigation disaster workforce successfully communicate to the public the risks associated with wildfires, and the mitigation measures available to improve personal safety and reduce damages to structures and personal property. Course Length: 1 hour
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