OLYMPIA – Faced with what projects to be a significant wildfire season compounded by the added challenges and risks COVID-19 presents for first responders, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is asking her fellow Washington residents to play a conscientious part in fire prevention this Memorial Day weekend and beyond.
“When spending time outdoors this holiday weekend, be aware of your surroundings and avoid activities that could be potential fire hazards as temperatures get warmer,” Franz said. “With coronavirus and the inherent danger of wildland firefighting, our first responders are being placed at increased exposure risk every time they go out on a call, making our role in wildfire prevention even more important this year.
“We’ve done such a great job staying home and staying safe during this pandemic. Let’s continue that good work by keeping our firefighters safe at home as well.”
This year, DNR has already responded to 276 fires, and with a 10-year average of 103 at this point in the year, Washington is experiencing a serious uptick in wildfires across the state – especially those caused by humans. In fact, 146 of the wildfires this year have been caused by debris burn piles getting away from home owners and 24 have been caused by campfires.
“Everyone needs to be careful – we all play a role in protecting our public lands,” Franz added. “Let’s have fun, but let’s stay safe and be mindful of the risks facing our firefighters every time they respond to a wildfire.”
DNR’s wildfire mission
Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. DNR is the state’s largest fire department and participates in Washington's coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.