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July In The Northwest: Warm Summer Nights And Big Fire Potential

Oregon Department of Forestry
Firefighters work the Graham Fire in central Oregon, which occurred earlier this month.

From Bend, Oregon, to Ellensburg, Washington, there is a fire weather watch Friday for hot temperatures, low humidity and breezy weather.

Already this year, Washington state has seen more than 500 wildfires on state-protected lands. Oregon has seen nearly 400. That’s high for the first half of the year in both states. In fact, so far there have been 104 more fires on Oregon’s state-protected lands than compared to the 10-year average.

That makes it the second-worst year in a decade in terms of wildfire starts. And 2018 is already the third-worst year for acres burned in Oregon to date since 2008.?

Washington Department of Natural Resources Fire Operation Chief Aaron Schmidt said three things happen in July that could make more frequent fires start to go big: There’s less humidity at night, not as much rain, and plenty of fuel.

“Our fuels become more cured, and the large fire potential increases,” Schmidt said. “And that does cause me to worry, or at least a heightened state of concern.”

Both Washington and Oregon position resources across the state for quick reactions to hopefully stay ahead of the fires. But Schmidt said sometimes there are just too many different fires burning, and the conditions are too tough to put out all of the fires or keep them small.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.