Weekend Wind Event Raises Wildfire Risk Across Washington
September 8, 2022
Drawing parallels to the winds that exacerbated the 2020 Labor Day fires, sustained east winds of 15-20 mph are projected for Friday and Saturday
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is expecting an east wind event over the weekend that, paired with already-critical fire weather conditions, could result in severe wildfire activity across the state – including west of the Cascades.
“This weekend’s weather conditions hearken to the east wind event that contributed to the unpredictable fire behavior and rapid spread of the 2020 Labor Day weekend firestorm,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. “Windy conditions amplify wildfire starts and make fighting those ignitions challenging.”
By Friday, the projected east wind event will begin to develop – featuring very dry conditions and breezy winds 15-20 mph from the Okanagan Valley southward into the Columbia Basin, and westward through the Columbia River Gorge and into the Puget Lowlands.
Friday afternoon and Saturday will also see gusty north-northeasterly winds of 15-20 mph across the Puget Lowlands and Willamette Valley, with the highest fire danger of the season likely for the western side of the state. Dry conditions will likely continue on Sunday, though winds will relax significantly.
Temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s are likely for Friday and Saturday along the west slopes of the Cascades, the Columbia River Gorge, the Olympics, and in the Puget Lowlands from King County southward. Usually, marine influence prevents most west-side fires from being able to grow rapidly by keeping fuels like grass and moss damp enough to blunt fire spread. But, the spiking temperatures and gusting easterly winds dry out those fuels, allowing for the sort of spread normally seen east of the Cascades.
Meanwhile, these conditions could contribute to rapid growth for the significant eastside fires already burning on the landscape.
“It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together,” Franz said. “Practicing good prevention habits keeps our skies clear and our firefighters safe.”
More information on prevention resources and best practices can be found here.
DNR Wildfire Communications Manager