Wednesday, July 15, 2020

In an abnormal year, fire season returns as usual

By Mike Allende

This year has been an unusual one, for many reasons. Put simply, few things are the same as they've been in the past.

But one thing that is the same? Fire season has arrived, as it so often does this time of year. As we've seen the past several weeks, fires along our roadsides have increased as we've gotten into the dry weather of summer. It's an unwelcome return as now more than ever, we need the public's help in preventing in small sparks that could ignite into a full-fledged blaze.
During dry seasons brush fires like this recent one in Wenatchee can
spread quickly and present extreme dangers to surrounding areas.

Why now more than ever? Well, again, it's not a usual year.

Our maintenance crews work hard to keep areas near roadways mowed for fire season to reduce brushfire risks. COVID-19 pandemic has affected that work, and now crews are furiously trying to catch up.  Add to that, important but bulkier coronavirus safety equipment, means keeping up with all the maintenance needs throughout the state is a monumental task.
This is the time of year when we see a rise in roadside fires, especially east of the Cascades like this recent fire in Wenatchee.

In the case of vegetation management, that means some areas have not been mowed as much as we'd like. Most of our mowing takes place ahead of the dry season because mowing can present fire hazards as well, so many areas that we would have normally maintained in the spring won't be mowed, at least anytime soon. And that's why we need your help more than ever.

So what can you do?
  • Always properly dispose of cigarettes, fireworks or anything else with a flame. Never toss them out of a vehicle window.
  • Keep your vehicle off of dried grass. Pulling your vehicle into a field with dry grass can spark a fire from the heat of the undercarriage or wheel bearings.
  • Make sure your vehicle and any trailers and equipment are in good working order before heading out. This reduces the chances of vehicle fires which can grow into larger fires. It also helps you avoid getting stranded along the highway.
  • Carry extra water in your vehicle during the summer. Not only might you need it to drink, but you might need it to help douse a fire. It's always a good idea to have some in case of emergency.

During dry conditions it doesn't take much to start a brush fire, like this recently near I-5 in Tacoma, and we need the public's help to limit them.

One thing in particular we're concerned about this year is people taking road trips in RVs and larger vehicles that they aren't used to. These vehicles often have safety chains and it's absolutely vital that you make sure those chains do not drag on the pavement. That little bit of carelessness can cause sparks that can quickly explode into a fire. Be sure to give your vehicle a good look before leaving and be sure everything is secure.