SPOKANE, Wash. - Record rainfall is setting the stage for a fast-moving fire season in the Inland Northwest, but while our rainy weather is helping the forests, it's not necessarily helping the firefighters.
Our trees are loving the wet weather. They are no longer stressed by drought and can better resist bugs and disease.
They are also less likely to burn.
However, it's the undergrowth firefighters are worried about.
Undergrowth is where fires get their start and there is an unusually large amount on the ground and a lot of it has already dried out for the season.
If you own a lawn mower, you already know this spring has been great for growing tall grass.
“You have to mow at least twice a week to get it done,” said homeowner Cliff Hardee.
While Hardee is keeping his grass short, mother nature is letting her lawn grow out.
In some places, the wet weather raised up waist-high weeds.
“The taller the grass, the more intense the fire is or the larger the flame lengths are,” said Guy Gifford, of the Department of Natural Resources. “So with taller grasses, we can get eight foot flame lengths, with shorter grasses, flame lengths can be like four to five feet.”
Trees are also growing tall in the wetter weather, but won't cure out like the grasses.
These mobility fuels are where fires get their start and in the right weather conditions, can spread out of control.
“The thing about this grass fuel is in the firefighting world, we think about this like kindling n a campfire,” said Gifford. “Kindling is easy to start but what it does is also ignite bigger fuels.”
The tall grasses mean early detection and a hard-hitting initial attack will be critical to keeping fires small this summer.
You can buy yourself some extra time until firefighters arrive by mowing down the grass around your rural property.