Fire season to begin early - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Fire season to begin early

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NACHES, Wash -- The sign outside the Naches Ranger Station says the danger of fire is low, but that is only for today. The U.S. Forest Service says this summer could be a particularly bad summer for forest fires in the Yakima Valley.

Its been over five years since the valley last had a large, out of control fire, and officials say the valley is due. They estimate there are 30,000 acres of forest that are ripe, and potentially dangerous.

In past years, they have started controlled burns to remove brush and fallen branches, which fuel forest fires, on about 2,000 acres -- not nearly enough to keep up with the danger areas.

This year, however, the Forest Service plans on burning three to four times the usual amount. As much as 2,000 acres over a few days. They plan on starting as early as mid-April, and continuing through May.

To ensure that the valley is not inundate with smoke they have set up air quality monitors around the valley, and will stop the prescribed burns if the air quality becomes too bad.

The hope is by starting small controlled fires, even if they are larger than past years, the valley will be protected from large, out of control fires.