Hillary Franz Holds Meeting on This Year’s Late Wildfire Season
Update: August 5, 2022 at 4:41 p.m.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz will visit the Cow Canyon Fire outside Ellensburg on August 6 and deliver an update on the fire.
The Cow Canyon Fire is currently 0% contained. Evacuations remain in place.
Original: August 5, 2022 at 2:48 p.m.
Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz held a zoom meeting on the morning of August 5, addressing the late start to wildfire season this summer.
“As we've seen just in the past few days, it is going to likely get worse before it gets better, and we are urging everyone to be responsible and follow their best practices while recreating and hunting and burning yard debris,” Franz said. “Don't be the spark in conditions like these, one might be all it takes.”
Franz labeled this year as a low fire season compared to last year, with only 293 fires this season versus the total 18,175 fires from last year.
The Wildfire Division Manager for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Russ Lane, said there has been considerable growth to wildfire fuels due to the late spring, specifically around the Columbia Basin.
“With our most recent heat dome, fields have come on line with a vengeance,” Lane said. “We've seen very active fire behavior, very rapid fire growth, when we do get the wind events in eastern Washington.”
Lane later confirmed that the Cow Canyon fire is now 10% contained after burning through approximately 6,000 acres on August 3.
DNR Wildland Fire Meteorologist Matt Dehr said they are hoping that the winds will bring some relief.
However, Dehr is concerned about the low pressure coming in from the west coast making its way over to the east on Tuesday and Wednesday. These winds may precede possible thunderstorms, further escalating the wildfire threat.
“The fuels are absolutely ready to burn if any lightning ignitions are possible outside of the rain shafts of those storms,” Dehr said.
Dehr later said that these thunderstorms may bring moisture relief from a monsoon coming from the southwest region.
With dry conditions, active fires may still continue. Humidity is around 10-15%, with winds coming from the Okanogan Valley.
DNR Communications Manager Ryan Rodruck reiterates that the media need to be safe and not go past the roadblocks set up by first responders.
DNR later reports that they have more firefighters this year than they did last year, avoiding resource exhaustion from last year.
Lane said his department is currently talking with a team in New Mexico on getting more resources if needed.
They have not contacted the National Guard as of yet, However Lane said that is still an available asset if they need additional crews or aircrafts.
They have decided not to declare a Governor’s Emergency Proclamation as of yet.