FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 16, 2009
2009 fire season ends: Big jump in fires on DNR-protected lands, but not in acres burned
Mandated seasonal restrictions on workers and recreation visitors expire; caution still urged due to dry fall and winter outlook
OLYMPIA–The 2009 summer wildfire season officially ended October 15, but the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges continued caution to prevent wildfire outbreaks on recreation lands and forestlands.
Preliminary figures indicate that during the 2009 wildfire season—legislatively mandated as April 15 to October 15—992 wildfires burned about 18,924 acres. Last year, 19,613 acres were burned in 813 fire incidents on the 12.7 million acres of private, state, tribal and other open lands DNR protects.
“Despite the greater number of fires and the hot, dry conditions on both sides of the Cascade Mountains, DNR and other agencies limited the number of acres burned this year,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “More than 90 percent of fires were kept to less than 10 acres in size, thanks to the fast response of DNR crews and the cooperation of Washington residents who were extra careful with fire outdoors.”
In 2009, there were 22 percent more fires on DNR-protected lands than in 2008, yet fewer acres burned this year. The largest fire in DNR-protected areas this year was the Oden Road Fire, west of Okanogan. The 9,607-acre blaze, which was started by lightning on August 21, destroyed two residences and 12 other structures.
Dry outlook calls for caution
With the long-range weather outlook calling for Washington State to experience a drier-than-normal winter, DNR urges citizens and workers to be cautious with fire in the outdoors. Before burning outdoors, please check local conditions and restrictions by calling 1-800-323-BURN (2876) or going to http://fortress.wa.gov/dnr/firedanger
Preparation for 2010
Fall and winter months are good times for homeowners to prepare for next year’s fire season by taking steps to make their residences more resistant to wildfire. Home safety tips include:
- Inspecting the home’s exterior for fire hazards;
- Removing moss and needles from the roof and rain gutters;
- Clearing vegetation and flammable materials from around propane tanks;
- Stacking firewood at least 30 feet away from the house;
- Keeping decorative bark and railroad ties away from the foundation—these types of materials provide great places for sparks to smolder;
- Triming tree branches to 10 feet off the ground for tall trees (and adjusting for shorter trees) to reduce fuels that could aid the spread of fire; and
- Maintaining defensible space around the home, which is the large, open area firefighters use to defend homes during a wildfire event. See: www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/rp_prevent_preparehomefire.pdf
DNR’s wildfire mission
Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 12.7 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands in Washington. DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department. During fire season, this includes more than 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 375 seasonal workers. DNR also participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.
With DNR’s help, more communities are better prepared for wildfires each year—counties and local communities have completed 34 community wildfire protection plans. In addition, 27 communities have received national recognition for their fire prevention efforts through the Firewise Communities USA program. With DNR’s assistance, last year, 11 fire districts built wildland fire engines from trucks acquired through the Firefighters Property Program; 24 more trucks were acquired for districts to begin conversions. This equipment increases fire districts’ capacity to aggressively suppress wildfires in their communities while they are small.
DNR also has fire prevention teams that can be dispatched to locations where the fire danger is great. These teams save money, natural resources, and lives by focusing fire prevention efforts when and where they are most effective.
Bob Redling, Senior Communications Manager, 360-902-1149, firstname.lastname@example.org