August 02, 2020

Benign Wildfire Year in Washington State

Everyone needs some good news this year and in this blog I am going to give it to you.  

We are half-way through the Washington State wildfire season and so far the area burned is far below normal.  We have not had any major fires.

And the latest forecasts suggest that this happy situation will continue.

To illustrate, here is the burned acreage on lands protected by the the Department of Natural Resources (excludes some Federal lands) from January 1 through July 31st.  This year there has only been 678 acres burned, the second lowest during the past decade.  And most of this is just grass fires.
Now some media folks and a few (less than honest) politicians have been saying that this has been a worse than normal fire year so far.  Let me show you how they are "stretching" the truth.  

Here is a plot of the number of fires counted by DNR.   So far we have had 558, which is more than normal.
But this increase has been mainly due to small fires ignited by folks, homebound by COVID, doing a lot of clean up and trash fires, plus a bevy of "recreational" fires.
Currently, there are only two major fires going on, and both are nearly contained (see map below)

We are now in the warmest time of the year for our region, and the most threatening for wildfire.  Fortunately, the forecast models are pretty emphatic that we are going into a much cooler/wetter pattern.

The latest Climate Prediction Center 6-10 day forecast shows below normal temperatures:

And the latest international ensemble (IMME) precipitation forecast for August, September, and October indicates normal conditions over most of the State (and wetter over the NW portion).  The forecast is pretty much the same for August.

Consider the latest UW WRF  7-day precipitation forecast, which brings some rain to the western and northern parts of the State, plus more rain in southern BC (which keeps down the fires there).

Another favorable point is that State's streamflow is near normal, something good for our fishy friends (green colors are in the normal range).

The bottom line is that at this point there is no reason to expect an above-normal wildfire and wildfire smoke season.  In fact, good reason to expect less wildfires and smoke than normal.  One issue to take off your worry list.


  1. According to the NWCC sit report ytd acreage burned in Washington is 42,280 acres not 678. There have been 852 human caused fires and 29 lighting caused. That being said this is well within a normal fire season.

    1. Yes, Dr. Mass was just using DNR statistics. There is much more land owned by the USFS, private (ranches and timber companies, Tribes, and BLM.)

  2. Not sure where you're getting your fire info from, but you're missing at least one current fire: at Lake Crescent in the Olympics.

    1. Lefty... I get my large fire information from the NWCC--NW Coordinating Center, among other sources. The Lake Crescent fire is only 65 acres and is not considered a major fire. The upcoming cooling and moisture should enable control of it this week...cliff

  3. As noted in my blog, I am simply giving the DNR-protected fire areas. The total is more. If you add the Federal it will be more, but the trend is the same.

  4. And when Doug and Bob make a successful splashdown on their return to Earth this morning, that will be another item to check off on the worry list!

  5. Cliff,

    Ahhh, good news! Thanks for keeping us updated.

  6. Why would you just include state land. The feds control and havemhave larger protection area. Your choice, but seems better to use the whole picture. That said it's still below a average fire year in Washington and the us as a whole. Check the burned to date for this year vs 10 year to date average.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Because there is no online data base that provides a year to date comparison against historical values. If you know of one, let me know. But the DRN lands are more vulnerable and it should be a very, very good indication.... we know there have not been any large higher elevation fires....cliff

  9. Good day. Not sure if aren't including current fires or not but the Anglin Fire is on DNR protected land and was contained at 1,992 acres yesterday. And the Green Fire is also on DNR protected land... I think and it was also contained at 1,480 acres a couple days ago. So the numbers aren't quite as good anymore.

  10. I bookmark this site for all the western states. The current versus 10 year average is under 54%. The CA July Complex fire is the largest.

    nifc = National Interagency Fire Center

  11. Some friends and I were going to hike up the Entiat River on Friday, but with the temperature over 100 in Wenatchee and about 95 at the trailhead, plus a fire on the other side of the ridge, we decided to leave the area and do a hike out of rainy Pass instead. On the way there we watch firefighters battling a blaze along the river between Entiat and Twisp.


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