Hundreds of firefighters are battling blazes all around us.
The drought and unrelenting temperatures have created perfect conditions for a horrific summer on the fire front. If you’ve flown over the Cascades or driven through the Blues, it’s clear there is very little water flowing. Streams and small rivers are dry, lakes and reservoirs are low.
Take a look toward the Blue Mountains and you’ll see a haze of smoke. Cabin owners have cleared their contents as hillsides continue to burn. Wenatchee and Moses Lake have been hit hard.
So far we have managed to avoid significant blazes here, but that doesn’t mean our community has been spared. Some residents here are also owners of businesses impacted in other parts of the state or have homes and cabins in the mountains that are threatened.
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It’s not going to get any better. And it’s quite likely we’ll have a significant fire close to home. With the weather and the dry conditions, it’s a matter of fact.
So what can you do to help?
Make sure areas under your control are as fire resistant as you can. Remove flammable items, clear dry brush and dead plants and do not stack them near your home. Use garbage bins or haul them to a landfill. Keep cloth umbrellas and hammocks 15 feet from your house; don’t use wood mulch within 5 feet of your house. Think about installing native plants in your landscape that can handle dry conditions without providing fuel for a fire.
One other common defense — keeping yards and landscaping well-watered — is not as feasible in a drought year like we are facing, especially those on the Kennewick Irrigation District system. For those who can, water.
Follow the rules if you head out camping. Fires are banned in most locations now. Don’t be the dummy who thinks the rules don’t apply. Many of the significant fires we have seen have been human-caused, though most not intentionally. The tiniest misstep can create a raging inferno.
Humans cause an average of 62,135 fires each year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. More than 2.4 million acres burn annually in the U.S. in fires started by people.
Don’t throw your cigarette butts out the window or extinguish them in flower pots or landscaping. Don’t do anything with fireworks. Keep a fire extinguisher and a shovel in your vehicle. If a fire does hit our area, stay out of first responders’ way. Find out what the needs are for support — food, shelter, livestock facilities — and pitch in where you can.
A lot of the time we can blame Mother Nature for fires with her summer lightning strikes. But not so much this summer. With people largely to blame, Smokey Bear’s words have never rung more true: Only you can prevent wildfires! Same goes for house fires.
Do your part. Tidy up your environs. Look out for your neighbors. Follow the rules. Pack it in, pack it out. And be safe.