Apr 4, 2023 - News

Washington state to burn wildlands to try to contain future fires

Two people in fire fighter gear and equipment looking at a fire in wildlands

Wildland firefighters conduct a controlled burn in 2022. Photo: Courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources

State officials plan to burn more than 2,100 acres in the coming weeks to try and prevent more severe wildfires later this year.

Why it matters: Recent summers have been plagued by wildfire smoke, which at times has caused Seattle's air quality to rank among the worst in the world.

Details: By conducting as many as seven controlled burns between April and June, the state Department of Natural Resources hopes to reduce the amount of brush and other combustible materials that can fuel wildfires.

What they're saying: In a press release, state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz called prescribed burns "one of the most cost-effective ways for us to remove excess fuels."

  • The practice also creates more open space for wildland firefighters to better combat blazes, she said.

Flashback: For years, the state severely restricted prescribed burns on its lands, citing problems with the smoke affecting the air quality of nearby communities, as well as limited funding to carry out the managed fires.

  • The Department of Natural Resources "spent years working with stakeholders to draft new prescribed fire policies," spokesperson Will Rubin told Axios last week.
  • Additional funding approved by the Legislature in 2021 was another factor that helped the department resume prescribed burning last year, Rubin said.

What's next: Weather conditions have to be right for firefighters to start a controlled fire. State officials say they will give notice of the precise timing of each prescribed burn a few days in advance.


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