2020 Washington wildfires

The 2020 Washington wildfire season officially began in March 2020. The season is a part of the 2020 Western United States wildfires. By September, wildfires had burned over 713,000 acres, 181 homes had been lost, and one death occurred as a result.[2][1] The 2020 fire season saw more individual fires than in any other recorded year.[1]

2020 Washington wildfires
Statistics
Total areaover 713,000 acres (289,000 ha)
Date(s)March 2020–present
Buildings destroyed377, including 181 homes[1]
Deaths1
Season
← 2019
2021 →
Drought intensity in the Pacific Northwest as of September 1, 2020

Predictions and preparationEdit

Based on environmental factors and forest conditions, the Washington–Oregon wildfires were projected to be the worst in the United States during 2020.[3]

Firefighting was expected to be complicated by personnel and resource shortages, and lack of training, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington.[4][5] By mid-May, one Washington State Department of Natural Resources firefighter had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and officials weren't sure how to get crews across quarantine boundaries and into Washington.[6] Experts said another effect may be that plans to fight fires would be scaled back and many 2020 fires would be left to burn.[5]

Department of Natural Resources training began June 19 outside Hamilton, Washington in Skagit County. According to the Skagit Valley Herald, interagency training in Washington that usually involves federal, state and local firefighting agencies was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.[7]

FiresEdit

 
Smokey air in Downtown Seattle due to wildfires

On April 26th two fires were burning: the Stanwood Bryant Fire in Snohomish County (70 acres) and the Porter Creek Fire in Whatcom County (80 acres).[8]

Between July 16 and 30, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and many county governments – including Mason, Thurston, King, Pierce and Whatcom Counties – issued fire safety burn bans due to elevated risk of uncontrolled fires.[9][10][11][12][13][14]

In late July, a brush fire in Chelan County, the Colockum Fire, burned at least 3,337 acres (1,350 ha) and caused homes to be evacuated.[15] A fire on the Colville Reservation near Nespelem called the Greenhouse Fire burned at least 5,146 acres (2,083 ha) and caused the evacuation of the Colville Tribal Corrections Facility and other structures.[16][17]

On August 19, Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for all of Washington, with fires burning on the Olympic Peninsula and in Eastern Washington. Among the active fires was the 24,000-acre (9,700 ha) Taylor Pond Fire near Yakima.[18] By August 20, the Palmer Fire near Oroville – which started August 18 – had reached 13,000 acres (5,300 ha) and forced evacuation of up to 85 homes.[19][20] The largest of the fires in the Olympics reached 2.4 acres (0.97 ha) by August 20.[21]

The Evans Canyon Fire, a few miles north of Naches, was ignited around August 31 and expanded to tens of thousands of acres, shut down Washington State Route 821 in the Yakima River Canyon, burned several homes and caused hundreds of families to evacuate, and caused unhealthy air quality in Yakima County.[22] By September 6, it had burned almost 76,000 acres.[23]

Labor DayEdit

On September 7, a "historic fire event" with high winds resulted in 80 fires and nearly 300,000 acres burned in a day. Malden and Pine City, in the Palouse region of Eastern Washington, were mostly destroyed by one of the fires.[24] By the evening of September 8, the Cold Springs Canyon and adjacent Pearl Hill Fires had burned over 337,000 acres (136,000 ha) and neither was more than 10% contained.[25] Smoke blanketed the Seattle area on September 8 and caused unhealthy air conditions throughout the Puget Sound region, and affected Southwest British Columbia.[26][27]

RecoveryEdit

In early August, the Washington Military Department set up Starlink satellite ground stations for data connectivity in areas where terrestrial communications were lost due to the fires. The systems were engineered and manufactured by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington. It was "the first early application of the company's service to be disclosed".[28]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Joseph O'Sullivan (September 11, 2020). "Washington state's wildfires have now destroyed more than 626,000 acres, 181 homes". The Seattle Times.
  2. ^ "How 2020 compares to historic washington wildfire seasons". Spokane: KREM. September 25, 2020.
  3. ^ "Washington, Oregon expected to have worst fire season in the country". Tacoma: KCPQ. May 19, 2020.
  4. ^ Katherine Long (March 27, 2020). "Coronavirus could make fighting Washington wildfires harder". Crosscut.com. Agencies that prepare for wildfires and recruit firefighters are busy responding to the pandemic. That could be a problem come summer.
  5. ^ a b Levi Pulkkinen (June 1, 2020), "Some WA wildfires may be left to burn this summer", Crosscut.com, Coronavirus concerns will have firefighters living differently and likely doing less.
  6. ^ James Drew (May 16, 2020). "Washington state braces for wildfire season as firefighter tests positive for COVID-19". Tacoma News Tribune – via KIRO. Newly released national plans for fighting wildfires during the coronavirus pandemic are hundreds of pages long but don't offer many details on how fire managers will get access to COVID-19 tests or exactly who will decide when a crew needs to enter quarantine.
  7. ^ Kimberly Cauvel (June 21, 2020). "Firefighters prepare for wildfire season during pandemic". Skagit Valley Herald. Mount Vernon, Washington.
  8. ^ Dyer Oxley (April 16, 2020). "Looking ahead to Washington's summer: Hotter and drier than normal, with a wildfire threat". Seattle: KUOW-FM.
  9. ^ "Burn ban issued for all 12 million acres of Washington state's DNR land". Seattle: KING-TV. July 28, 2020.
  10. ^ "Burn Restrictions Effective Thursday". Mason Web TV. Hood Canal Communications. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  11. ^ "Fire Marshal issues burn ban for unincorporated areas in King County" (press release). King County, Washington. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  12. ^ "Burn Ban Restrictions Effective 8:00am, Monday, July 27, 2020". official website. Whatcom County, Washington Fire Marshal.
  13. ^ "Thurston County burn ban in effect through September". The Olympian. Olympia, Washington. July 18, 2020.
  14. ^ Outdoor burning, Pierce County, Washington official website, accessed August 21, 2020
  15. ^ "Colockum Fire in Chelan County 80% contained, level 3 evacuations have been lifted". Seattle: KING-TV.
  16. ^ "Team reports firefighters working on mop up, Greenhouse Fire 74 percent contained". Tribal Tribune.
  17. ^ "Greenhouse Fire near Nespelem now 74% contained". Spokane: KHQ-TV. July 29, 2020.
  18. ^ Helen mith (August 19, 2020). "Gov. Inslee declares state of emergency over Washington wildfires". Spokane: KREM-TV.
  19. ^ "Level three evacuations for Palmer Fire burning 13,000 acres in Okanogan County". Spokane: KHQ-TV. August 20, 2020.
  20. ^ "Palmer Fire". Inciweb fire information system. U.S. Government interagency National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  21. ^ "Lightning-sparked fires in Olympics stay small". Peninsula Daily News. Port Angeles, Washington. August 20, 2020.
  22. ^ "Air quality reaches unhealthy levels in Yakima Co; Thursday's fire forecast". Yakima: KIMA-TV. September 3, 2020.
  23. ^ "Evans Canyon Fire now at 40% containment". Richland, Washington: KNDU. September 6, 2020.
  24. ^ "Fast-Moving Wildfire Destroys 80% Of Small Town In Eastern Washington State". NPR. September 8, 2020.
  25. ^ Jennifer Forsmann; Mariah Valles; Katherine Barner (September 8, 2020). "Cold Springs and Pearl Hill Fires burns 337K acres collectively". KHQ.
  26. ^ Washington Department of Ecology Northwest Region [@ecyseattle] (September 8, 2020). "Wildfire smoke has brought poor air quality to much of western WA. Everyone, especially sensitive groups, should limit time outdoors & avoid strenuous outdoor activities" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ "Smoke from Washington State wildfire blankets parts of Vancouver Island, B.C. Interior". Global News. Global News. September 8, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  28. ^ Michael Sheetz (September 29, 2020). "Washington emergency responders first to use SpaceX's Starlink internet in the field: 'It's amazing'". CNBC.

External linksEdit