‘We are at a crisis right now’: Wildfires carve through Washington and firefighters struggle to keep up
WELLPINIT, Wash. — Wildfires continue to ravage our region, and with another heat wave moving in, there’s a lot to be concerned about across the Inland Northwest.
Tribal reservations have been hit especially hard. With limited resources, staying on top of the fires is difficult. The Sherwood Fire has already burned over 1,100 acres and still burns today. It’s just one of the fires contributing to one of the most destructive wildfire seasons in Washington.
“We are at a crisis right now, and the end of July isn’t even here,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.
It’s a crisis affecting everyone in the state and it’s not showing signs of slowing down.
“It’ll kill the ground and burn all the timber, and people make livings off of all that stuff that it’s burning,” said Wellpinit resident Frank Bair.
Bair can’t go home right now. The fire is just too close to his house. He’s lived in Wellpinit for 64 years and just hopes he’ll have something to return to.
“Still losing my home again, what would I do?” Bair asked.
More than 240,000 acres—375 square miles—have already burned in Washington this year, leaving behind record-breaking damage and destruction.
“The escalating fire crisis impacts everyone,” said Franz.
Record-breaking heat and devastating droughts have made fighting these fires even harder.
“It’s just too difficult for our folks to actually fight fire offensively during the day, so we’ve transitioned to more of a night offensive tactics,” said Shawn Sheldon with the Northwest Incident Management Team.
There is slightly more humidity when the sun goes down, so these teams rest during the day and attack at night. 30 families like Bair’s can’t go home today in Wellpinit, but this season, everyone in Washington needs to be ready for the next wildfire.
“At this time of the year, under the conditions we’re on, the whole Pacific Northwest should be under a ‘Level 1’ [evacuation] — ‘be ready,'” said Sheldon.
And one of the challenges teams here have been fighting are extremely steep conditions, making it harder for firefighters to get to the fire.
They’re working 16 hour shifts to get this fire under control.
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