A rash of brush fires across Clark and Cowlitz counties led to action from multiple local agencies including a temporary burn ban that ran for a few days in Cowlitz.
On March 20 Clark County Fire District 3 announced that it had responded to several wildland fires over two days in the county. At about 6:30 p.m., March 19, FD3 crews responded to the 20300 block of Northeast 242nd Avenue, southeast of Venersborg, finding a brush fire about an acre in size burning at the location. Crews had the fire extinguished by 8 p.m. and ruled that it was likely the result of a controlled burn that reignited.
The following morning FD3 responded to assist Clark County Fire District 13 at about 1:20 a.m. with a six-acre burn in the latter’s jurisdiction at 28609 NE East Fork Drive, according to the announcement. Both departments alongside Clark County Fire & Rescue contributed to the response and the fire was contained by 5:45 a.m.
The last fire in the county occurred later that day according to FD3, as crews responded to the 17400 block of Northeast Horne Road, arriving at about 12:45 p.m. and taking two hours to extinguish the roughly two-acre fire.
FD3 is now urging landowners not to burn in the current conditions. Cowlitz County went one step further, ordering an emergency burn ban March 20 due to the fires it had seen over the past few days. The Daily News reported four fires had burned on March 18 and 19 including ones in the Columbia Heights area of Longview, one west of Castle Rock and one near the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum county line.
By Saturday, fire conditions had subsided and the county lifted the burn ban.
The early start to this year’s fire season in Western Washington caught the attention of the state Department of Natural Resources who released an article addressing the development March 21. In the first half of the week, firefighters had responded to 50 wildfires with 49 of them being on the western side of the state.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources Meteorologist Josh Clark said the rash of fires was an anomaly.
“Offshore, easterly winds are a known, somewhat common, critical fire weather pattern for Western Washington where high pressure sets up east of the Cascades and low pressure on the west side. These winds usually come with warm and very dry conditions that promote considerable west side fire activity,” Clark said.
Clark said that the timing stood out, as usually the weather patterns don’t cause fires until late August through early October. He explained the mix of winds, humidity and temperature led to earlier-than-usual burns.
The article noted that the Washington State Commissioner for Public Lands Hillary Franz is working with the Washington State Legislature to get a $55 million wildfire and forest health package approved. That package would fund additional firefighters and air support and would invest in treatments that would restore the health of our forests.