Wildfire season: Scientists forecasting hot, dry spring in Pacific Northwest

A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting an unusually dry spring for the Pacific Northwest.

Capt. Bob Shannon with Benton County Fire District 4 says we won’t notice too much of a difference this summer in the place some lovingly call the ‘Dry-Cities’.

"We typically see those similar reports. Dry and warmer, dryer and warmer," he explained. "It's the dry climate that allows the fires to start and it’s the wind that keeps them going.”

The same wind fanning the flames pushes the smoke toward our region, where more often than not it decides to linger.

"A couple years ago there were very bad fires in Canada and we had terrible air quality here, even though locally we didn’t have any big fires," he explained.

After last year’s dangerous air conditions caused by regional wildfires and an inversion, Shannon advises folks with breathing concerns to plan ahead.

N95 or N100 rated masks can help protect some people from air pollution.

These masks are usually available at hardware and home repair stores.

Please check with your doctor to see if this appropriate for you.

Capt. Shannon says fire experts have learned that defensible space, a green area around your home, is important.

He says now is the best time to start working on your home’s defensible space before it gets too hot.

"It's easier now than it is later. Now, things are still a little bit wet. You have less going on in your personal lives, and vacations and family and kids in school, and you may not have the time then. Do it now."

He says a quick once over is important for all homeowners, because they’re learning it’s not enough to simply tear out the flammable bushes around your house and be done with it.

"[Forget] the dry leaves you cleared from under your porch last year, there's probably more this year,” he explained. “Every year you need to check those spaces. Your outbuildings, your horse barns, your dog houses things like that. Keep all that away and clean."

Because wildfire season isn’t just on its way, it’s parked on the driveway and about to ring the doorbell.

"We had one in Prosser yesterday. A small one, but it's that time of year where the grasses are dry,” he said. “One spark or small fire and we have fires."

Shannon says if you find yourself in the path of a wildfire, turn on the sprinklers and call 911.

"Any water or vapor in the air will help slow the fire down a little bit," he said. “Turn on your sprinklers, turn on your hose, and hope for the best.”


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