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Central Washington wildfire intensifies season

Central Washington wildfire intensifies season

The 2021 wildfire season in Washington state intensified over the Fourth of July weekend after a fire broke out in Central Washington and to date has burned almost 8,000 acres. It remains one of only two large wildfires in the state, though that could change as the season moves into what historically tends to be the drier, more intense period between July and August.

The Batterman Road Fire broke out on July 4 in Douglas County, located south of East Wenatchee, and is currently 10 percent contained. Active at the incident are 33 engines, 177 firefighters along with two helicopters and three air tankers. The fire has already prompted a Level 3 evacuation notice to local residents and closed Rock Island. The Palisades residents have received Level 1 evacuation notices. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Washington firefighters are also active at the Joseph Canyon Fire located directly on the state border with Oregon. That fire has burned a total of 7,600 acres and is 95 percent contained.

Smaller ongoing wildfires across the state include the Andrus Fire south of Spokane, which has burned 300 acres, along with the 20-acre Cedar Hills Fire near Tacoma.

The latest weekly weather forecast indicates Central and Eastern Washington are at high risk for more wildfires, noting hot conditions and dry, lighter fuel loads along with possible thunderstorms. Although most wildfires in Washington are caused by people, the most severe fires are typically ignited by lighting and are located in areas difficult for ground crews to access. According to the Predictive Services National Interagency Fire Center, there were 7,444 lighting strikes in June, slightly below the 2000-2020 average.

 The total acreage burned so far is now roughly around 10,000 acres compared to the 1,800 prior to the weekend despite record-high temperatures throughout the state. While this year has had an unusually high number of wildfires break out compared to the average, most of the fires have been kept small.

Though the wildfire season still remains relatively mild at this point compared to prior years, recent seasons have taken a sharp turn due to weather conditions that make wildfire severity difficult to anticipate.  

TJ Martinell is a native Washingtonian and award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Bellevue, he’s been involved in the news industry since working at his high school newspaper.

His investigative reporting for various community newspapers in the Puget Sound region has been recognized by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.

A graduate of Eastern Washington University, he has a B.A. in journalism and was the news editor of EWU’s student university newspaper.

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