Washington state’s fire season lightest in a decade

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state this year has had the fewest square miles burned in a decade following the second- and third-worst fire seasons on record in 2020 and 2021.

State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced Friday that about 219 square miles (567 square kilometers) burned in 2022 wildfires, The Seattle Times reported.

That’s compared to nearly 781 square miles (2,023 square kilometers) in 2021 and 1,316 square miles (3,408 square kilometers) burned in 2020.

2015 was the state’s worst fire season in recorded history, when more than 1,562 square miles (4,045 square kilometers) burned.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz celebrated the moderate fire season, saying a combination of Department of Natural Resources equipment, aerial firefighting assets, personnel, partnerships with other agencies, as well as a rainy spring that delayed the start of this year’s fire season contributed to the success.

Since taking office in 2017, Franz has touted the benefits of controlled burns, and “treating” forests by thinning brush, trimming branches and removing dying trees.

Department of Natural Resources officials since 2017 have tracked over 625 square miles (1,619 square kilometers) of completed treatments, and about 109 square miles (282 square kilometers) of prescribed burns in Central and Eastern Washington.

On Friday, Franz said crews this year were able to keep more than 94% of fires to 10 acres or less.

Franz also stressed that the Bolt Creek fire still burning northeast of Seattle was a reminder that fire “doesn’t see boundaries.”

“As climate change and other factors have worsened the length and impact of fire seasons, turning them instead into fire years, wildfire is no longer an eastside issue – it’s a statewide one,” she said.

The Bolt Creek fire started Sept. 10 just north of Skykomish along U.S. Highway 2. As of Friday afternoon, the fire had torched about 20 square miles (52 square kilometers) and was 36% contained.

The is burning into the Wild Sky Wildnerness and has prompted several closures of the highway. The exact origin and cause are still under investigation, but the Western Washington Incident Management Team confirmed the blaze was human-caused.

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