OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning the public to be extremely cautious and take every available precaution to protect their families, their pets, and their most treasured possessions from wildfires during the current emergency conditions. All available resources, both statewide and nationally, are already deployed fighting wildfires across the American West, and most firefighting agencies have, by necessity, adopted a defensive posture to contain the already overwhelming spread of wildfires.
“We cannot stress enough that all members of the public should take any evacuation order or emergency direction with the utmost seriousness and do everything they can to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said Mary Verner, Deputy Supervisor of Resource Protection and Administration at the state DNR, which commands the state’s largest wildland firefighting force.
“All firefighting resources are stretched, and these fires are developing quickly. We encourage every member of the public who feels endangered by an approaching fire to immediately evacuate. Please resist the temptation to hunker down and fight fires and please do not wait for firefighting resources that may not be immediately available.”
“This is a dire situation,” said Verner, “and we ask the public to do everything they can to be smart, be safe, and take themselves out of harm’s way. Buildings can be rebuilt – but nothing can bring back a loved one.”
Three U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters were killed yesterday fighting wildfires in Okanogan County, and other federal and state wildland firefighters were burned or injured. On June 26th, Governor Jay Inslee declared a State of Emergency in anticipation of a severe wildfire season. Yesterday, Governor Inslee requested a federal Emergency Declaration to provide additional resources to cover costs of wildfire fighting, and the DNR declared a Level 4 Industrial Fire Precaution Level for the eastern half of the state, which bans potentially fire-causing activities like timber harvest and road construction.
Weather conditions heighten wildfire risk
Forecasts of winds of 15 to 20 mph with gusts of up to 40 mph are raising the risks of wildfire across northeast Washington, including the Methow Valley and the Okanogan Valley. The area, which includes the several counties where more than 1,000 firefighters are battling 10 large wildfires that have burned more than 120,000 acres, will also see higher temperatures and decreasing humidity.
For more information on emergency evacuation preparedness, please visit http://www.dnr.wa.gov/programs-and-services/wildfire/wildfire-preparedness/emergency-preparedness