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Northwest Fire Season Ramps Up East Of The Cascades

Washington Incident Management Team #2/ InciWeb. A column of smoke rises from the Mile Marker 28 Fire near Goldendale, Wash.

Workers in the Tri-Cities, Washington, area got notice Wednesday of tinder-dry conditions at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and were advised to practice fire safety at work and at home.

It’s about four weeks ahead of schedule for these types of fire-weather alerts and a sign of a long, hot summer ahead.

Earlier this week, the Hanford site was already looking brown and toasty. Fire forecasters across the region are warning of very dry conditions ripe for winds, lightning and human folly.

Aaron Bibe, a lieutenant with Benton County Fire District 1 in the Tri-Cities, is in charge of predicting fire conditions in the county. He said this week, the humidity readings, dry cheat grass, sagebrush and Russian olive trees all indicated it was time for him to ratchet up to the “Very Dry” designation.

“We would encourage people to use the same caution that they do later in the summer, because that’s the conditions we’re seeing right now,” Bibe said.

Bibe explained that it's due to a scant-rain spring and pretty dry winter. He said most fires are caused by humans and urged caution. Bibe advised using machinery like chainsaws in the early morning, sticking to trails and roads when off-roading and have a bucket of water handy with campfires this summer.

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.