Washington’s wildfire season off to an early start

Sleepy Hollow Fire map
3-D map of the Sleepy Hollow Fire in Wenatchee, Washington, looking west, 1 a.m. PT, June 30, 2015. Note the spot fire near the river that is 1.2 miles east of the main fire. (click to enlarge)

The Sleepy Hollow Fire that swept into Wenatchee, Washington destroying 29 homes announced the early beginning of the wildfire season in the state. A spot fire 1.2 miles in front of the main fire that for a while was not noticed while structures were burning on the other side of town, spread into four industrial buildings.

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article about the fire and the current situation in Washington that has led to concern about how the state will deal with the conditions this summer, and beyond. Below are excerpts from the article:

…”This is a stress test for 2070,” said Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. “We’re being tested now with the warmth and lack of snowpack that will be typical at the end of the century. How do we get through it?”

Climate experts say the current conditions in the Pacific Northwest are part of a short-term climate phenomenon, but they warn that temperatures are rising everywhere. In Seattle, for example, that means warmer, wetter winters and warmer, drier summers.


Two months ago, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency, a snowpack drought rather than a precipitation drought. At the time, state officials warned that the 2015 fire season could be earlier and fiercer than Washington has ever seen.

Now that it has begun in earnest, “it’s worse than I feared,” Goldmark said.


Sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck in front of what had been her home of 18 years, Sharon Cooper marveled Wednesday that all of the precautions she and her husband, Nick, had taken through the years did no good against the Sleepy Hollow fire.

Not the concrete shingles. Not the backyard fire hose with high-pressure water. Not the regular efforts to whack away the brush.

“This is August kind of stuff,” Cooper said, mourning the community’s loss, wondering whether she and Nick would rebuild. “Even sometimes the Fourth of July is rainy and yucky here…. Everything’s changing.”

Another article worth your time is titled Large, early blazes in unusual places are shaping this year’s wildfire seasonThe piece in the MinnPost looks at the general wildfire situation in the United States and Canada. A brief excerpt:

…As of Monday, according to the CBC, Saskatchewan had 112 active fires across the province, bringing the year-to-date total to 569. That’s nearly three times the tally for 2014, and the acreage in flames is 10 times a normal year’s.

The newest fires near La Ronge, toward the northern fringe of settlement in the province, prompted evacuation of 8,000 more people, bringing to 13,000 the number waiting out the battles in emergency shelters — the largest evacuation in provincial history. More than half of them had to be lodged in neighboring Alberta…

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Washington’s wildfire season off to an early start”

  1. Welcome to the “new” Western USA’s extended fire season. If you had any doubt that climate change exists coupled with out -of -control wildland fuels issues this new trend will only get worse in the coming years. Thoughts and prayers who put their lives on the line to save life and property in this scary wildland environment. Proud of my 35 year career in the profession–happy I am retired too.


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