An abnormally dry spring has heralded an early start to what could be a prolonged fire season in 2021.

Forestry educators at Washington State University urge forest owners and residents to prepare.

Mark Swanson.

Since the era of effective fire suppression began around 1950, “we’ve seen a lot of trees grow into formerly open spaces,” said Mark Swanson, Forestry Program lead with WSU’s School of the Environment. “We have denser, more moisture-stressed stands that are going to burn at higher severity, where once they would have experienced low-severity, ground fires. These are the parts of our forest that would have burned frequently, keeping fuel low so that fire wouldn’t have jumped from crown to crown.”

For fire to start, timber, grasses, and other fuel must be dry. Green wood won’t burn, but given time, warm temperatures, and low relative humidity, all that’s needed is a spark, and wind to spread the blaze.

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WSU Insider