It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s dry. It’s hot.
In the Pacific Northwest, 90-degree days are usually rare, but this year, they are like the Energizer Bunny: They keep going and going and going.
The combination has firefighters hopping from fire to fire, as dry grass and brush catch a spark and flames quickly spread. A fast-moving grass fire near Rochester spread over about 5 acres and came within inches of several homes Friday, but was extinguished before buildings were badly damaged.
And Friday, the state Department of Natural Resources announced that the most dangerous wildfire weather of the year had arrived.
“The dry fuel, record temperatures, high winds and lightning rolling in from the south present explosive potential for wildfire throughout the state,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark in a news release. “This is a critical fire-weather pattern, notorious for producing large fires with extreme fire behavior. We need everyone to take the utmost care not to spark any fires.”
Olympia saw 10 days at 90-degrees or hotter in July — including Friday — and had four in June, according to Chris Burke of the National Weather Service office in Seattle. Two days set records: 96 degrees on July 2 and July 30.
“But, it’s not really a drought,” Burke said, because summers are usually dry here. However, rainfall has been below average. June’s .14 inch was 1.62 inches below average and July’s .15 inch was .47 inch below average.
The warmest July in Olympia was in 1906, with 13 days at or above 90 degrees and two days higher than 100 degrees.
The heat wave has caused problems beyond trying to sleep at night and worrying whether to water plants.
Recreation restrictions: According to the state Department of Natural Resources and other agencies, the following are prohibited or restricted: fires or campfires, smoking unless in an enclosed vehicle, welding, the use of chainsaws and other equipment, and operating a motor vehicle off developed roads. These restrictions, under the DNR burn ban, will be in place at least until Sept. 30. Information: www.dnr.wa.gov. Many private forest lands also are closed to recreation.
Hunters: Hunters may need to consider alternative locations because of drought- and fire-related restrictions on public and private lands. The fall black bear season opens Aug. 1 or 15 in some game management units. Information: inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/49/ and www.fs.usda.gov.
Fish: More than a dozen fish hatcheries operated by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife are experiencing low water levels or high water temperatures. WDFW is using re-circulation pumps and aerators, medicated feed and, in some cases, moving fish to facilities with cooler water and better water circulation. The department is sending coho to Tacoma Power’s Cowlitz Hatchery from its North Toutle facility after roughly 102,000 fish there died from disease caused by elevated water temperatures.
A little relief is in sight. After another blistering weekend, temperatures are forecast to drop below 80 beginning Tuesday, with even a slight chance of showers on Thursday.