Officials urge safety as wildfire season begins in Washington state

While the promise of warm, dry weather has people eager for summer, fire departments statewide are gearing up for wildfire season.

The season in Washington officially began April 15 and will last through Oct. 15, state Department of Natural Resources reported. During this time, burning regulations are in effect for more than 12 million acres managed by the state.

Eastern and central Washington typically are at risk for wildfires, but Snohomish County is not immune, fire officials say. Once dry weather sets in, grass and brush fires can keep firefighters busy and threaten homes.

In the Snohomish area, fire crews already have fought one brush fire along U.S. 2, said Ron Simmons, deputy chief of Snohomish County Fire District 4.

Last year, the department responded to about half a dozen brush fires, including one started because of illegal burning that endangered nearby homes.

Grass fires along U.S. 2 typically are caused by discarded cigarettes and car exhaust. Most are minor but have the potential to cause serious harm, Simmons said. The fire department tries to educate people about safe burning practices and protecting their homes. Anyone who wants to burn outdoors or wants to get fire safety tips should call or stop by their local fire department, he said.

One of the most important things homeowners can do is create defensible space around their homes. Clearing vegetation, wood and other fire hazards will help protect the home from a blaze and create a safe zone for firefighters to work in.

“It boils down to keeping brush and combustibles away from your house,” Simmons said.

Landscaping plays a role. Homeowners should consider plants that aren’t as flammable.

Most summers Snohomish County firefighters deploy to help with large wildfires in other parts of the state. Last year, local crews battled Chelan County fires of more than 500 acres.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, kyefimova@heraldnet.com.

On the Web

For more information, go to www.dnr.wa.gov. To see the state’s wildfire photos, go to http://tinyurl.com/forestfires.

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