SPOKANE, Wash. - Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz says the state is looking at a potentially substantial fire season and COVID-19 isn't making it any easier.
Franz said wildfire season has already begun, with 328 wildfires and 500 wildfire responses already in the books. With more hot weather forecasted to be on the way for the rest of summer, Washington and Oregon are looking at the most significant fire danger in the country.
When it comes to COVID-19's role in this year's fire season, Franz said the impact has already begun. With more people staying home these days, some can be more inclined to do yard work and potentially burn debris piles. Those small fires can quickly spread given the right conditions.
In addition, firefighter training sessions that would normally be in-person have had to be altered or even moved online to accommodate social distancing. Franz said during a normal year, firefighters usually eat, sleep and work together in very close quarters. Now, in light of the virus, they're having to make some changes.
There's also the added obstacle of cost. The coronavirus also brought new regulations for personal protective equipment, which firefighters need to stay safe, not only from a blaze, but from the pandemic.
All that being said, Franz notes that the public can do its part to keep firefighters safe, not only from wildfires, but from COVID-19. She urged people to keep their lawns free of debris and other potential fuel and also keep practicing good health habits.
You can catch Franz's full interview with KHQ's Sean Owsley on Friday, June 26 during the 6:30.