GOLD BAR — Of the 330 wildfires in Washington so far this year, almost 90% were caused by humans, according the state Department of Natural Resources.
Snohomish County fire districts and the county Department of Emergency Management are hoping to curtail bonfires-gone-wrong with three upcoming free wood-chipping events.
Residents can bring brush to fire district buildings in Gold Bar, Arlington and Sultan this weekend and next.
Backyard burning increases both wildfire risk and air pollution, department Emergency Program Manager John Holdsworth said.
Chipping debris instead “reduces the wildfire risk and it reduces the impact on the air quality,” he said.
Earlier this year, backyard burning contributed to unusually high air pollution in Snohomish County. Levels of particulate matter in the air, or smoke, were roughly twice the average in late April and May. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency attributed that partially to residential bonfires.
Fire District 26 played a large role in starting the wood chipping events three years ago after the 2016 Proctor Creek Fire, which scorched 289 acres near Gold Bar.
The events are aimed at residential areas nestled up against forest land.
“Over the years, more and more houses have gone out into the country,” said Eric Andrews, Northwest Region coordinator for the state Fire Defense Committee. “They love to have trees around them. … Those home are increasing (wildfire) danger.”
Despite western Washington’s reputation as the rainy side of the state, Andrews said, hotter, drier summers are bringing increased wildfire risk each year.
A wet spring, like the one Snohomish County saw this year, brings lots of forest growth. And with it increased wildfire danger.
“Anytime we can prevent people from starting fires … it’s going to prevent those bigger wildfires,” Andrews said.
There are three free wood-chipping events coming up. Bring limbs or brush five inches in diameter or less, stacked and positioned in the same direction.
June 27 from 10 a.m.to 2 p.m. at Station 54, 42013 U.S. 2.
June 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Whitehorse Fire Station 38, 30020 Swede Haven Road.
June 30 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Fire District 5 Administration Building, 33021 Cascade View Drive SE.