SEATTLE — Fire officials throughout the Pacific Northwest are urging caution as high temperatures and dry conditions combine to raise fire and heat dangers heading into Labor Day weekend.
While the region saw plenty of rain and a thick snowpack over the winter and spring, hot temperatures and the lack of rain this summer have been driving down the moisture of vegetation, shrubs, trees and other fuels, setting it up to burn.
Much of Washington state has seen higher than normal temperatures. Some areas of eastern Washington have gone more than 100 days without rain, according to the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s really, really dry out there. And it’s only going to get hotter and drier,” said Josh Clark, Washington state’s fire meteorologist.
Most of Washington saw a lot of precipitation and a hearty winter snowpack over the winter and spring. “Then 90 days ago, the faucet turned off,” Clark said. Fuel conditions continue to dry out and are near or slightly drier than normal conditions, he added.
Thousands of federal, state, local and private firefighters are battling blazes across Oregon and Washington. More than 800 square miles have burned in those states so far this year, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
State officials have sent crews, fire engines, helicopters and other firefighting aircraft have been sent to key spots around the state to be ready to respond to new fires.
They’re urging people to be mindful of wildfire dangers as hot, dry and smoky days are in the forecast across Oregon and Washington over the long weekend.
Campfires in eastern Washington and northwest Washington are currently prohibited. People heading outdoors in other part of the state should check with local campground hosts about fires.
There’s a potential for hot, dry, unstable conditions to flame current wildfires, said Colby Neuman, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon.
The weekend weather forecast indicates critical fire weather and the potential for extreme fire behavior, the Oregon State Fire Marshal said.