There’s a dangerous combination of weather factors in the Pacific Northwest this summer, as is clearly evidenced by the toll being taken by the Washington wildfires currently ravaging the state. This afternoon, President Barack Obama offered some relief to locals being plagued by the hot, dry summer and highly-active fire season, which is obviously still in progress. The president declared an official State of Emergency in Washington State, which opens up the opportunity for struggling locals to get their hands on federal aid from agencies such as FEMA. The declaration also allows for federal agencies to take a larger role in overseeing wildfire fighting efforts.
Currently there are 13 uncontrolled, large wildfires burning throughout Washington State, with another dozen raging in Oregon.
The president’s state of emergency declaration comes on the 105th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1910, which burned over 3 million acres between Washington, the Idaho panhandle, and Montana.
This year’s wildfire season in Washington, and really across much of the west, has reached record-breaking levels. It’s been a hot and devastatingly dry spring and summer for the entire region. Locals are definitely on edge, particularly with some of the worst of the Washington wildfires taking their toll on such a notorious date.
Combined with the recent loss of three firefighters in Washington this week, this haunting anniversary could very well have served as a catalyst for the president’s disaster declaration today.
In addition to the wildfires burning in Washington and Oregon, Idaho has also been hit hard this fire season. With 17 wildfires burning in the state (the largest concentration of fires in a single state in the entire U.S.), 42 homes have already been destroyed. As of this afternoon, further evacuations have been ordered near Boise as more structures are threatened.
The Washington wildfires show no signs of slowing, despite the best efforts of all firefighters involved. For the first time in decades, the Washington State government, as well as the governments of other states in the west, have had to turn to the military in an attempt to get ahead of the brutal wildfire season. Members of the National Guard have been deployed in the areas to assist local firefighters in their efforts to contain the ever-increasing number of fires in the region. They have been providing invaluable support and expertise in the worst of the fire-torn areas.
Weather in the impacted areas is forecast to remain hotter and drier than average for the foreseeable future, which does little to put people’s minds at ease. For those directly impacted by the Washington wildfires this season, diligence in following fire restrictions could be the best policy.
[Photo Credit: Steven Brashear/Getty]