Oct 12, 2022 - News

Washington state sees less destructive wildfire season

Data: Washington State Department of Natural Resources; Chart: Axios Visuals

It may not seem like it from Seattle's recent smoky skies, but Washington's 2022 wildfire season is shaping up to be the least destructive in a decade.

Driving the news: About 140,300 acres have burned so far in Washington this year, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

  • That's fewer acres than in any year since 2011, per the department.

Why it matters: Unchecked wildfires can burn down towns, force people to evacuate their homes and cause a loss of life, in addition to blanketing communities in smoke and haze.

The big picture: State officials say wildfire risk is increasing due to climate change, which is producing more frequent droughts and drier forests that make it easier for fires to spread.

By the numbers: The state's top three most destructive fire seasons have all occurred within the last seven years — in 2015, 2020 and 2021.

What they're saying: State Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, who heads the Department of Natural Resources, told reporters that one of the reasons for this year's more mild fire season is the Legislature recently investing more money in fire prevention and firefighting equipment.

Yes, but: The location of this year's Bolt Creek Fire — which started in King County near Skykomish and continues to burn — has bathed Seattle and the surrounding area in smoke regardless.

The bottom line: State officials warn that people need to stay vigilant and practice fire prevention, as the danger posed by climate-change-fueled wildfires isn't going away.

Of note: About 85% of the state's wildfires are human-caused, per DNR.

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