Here's how to keep track of wildfires in Washington state.
Wildfires tend to come in bunches.
That’s because the recipe is pretty standard: They need fuel, an ignition source (typically lightning, unless people are to blame) and plenty of oxygen. Wildfires thrive in hot, dry and windy conditions. When a summertime weather front moves through eastern Washington and brings wind or lightning, there’s a good chance the state will see a handful of fires.
They can be chaotic and difficult to track, particularly with several government agencies contributing resources and trying to triage the potentially dangerous blazes.
Here are some resources for following the fires:
- InciWeb is a database tool built by the U.S. Forest Service that provides basic information about large wildfires, including their size and location. It is generally updated at least twice a day (once in the morning and once at night) with information from the fire line. Wildfires typically aren’t entered into the system until firefighters have had time to set up some infrastructure and coordination, so it’s rare for a fire to appear on the site immediately. Most wildfires posted to InciWeb involve federal resources.
- The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center provides more comprehensive and technical information about large wildfires burning in the Northwest. Fires are typically reported if they grow to more than 100 acres. The NWCC also provides fire-weather outlooks and estimates the potential for new wildfires in the Northwest.
- The National Weather Service posts fire-weather warnings and watches for the entire country.
- The Washington State Patrol is in charge of mobilizing state resources when local firefighters need them. After a local fire chief requests help, the state patrol publishes a news release with information about the mobilization effort.
- The Washington state Department of Natural Resources publishes a burn-risk map that catalogs fire danger. It also broadcasts burn bans and provides information about some wildfires using its Twitter handle, @waDNR_fire.
- For air quality information, the Washington state Department of Ecology has a monitoring network from sites across the state.
- The Washington Department of Transportation will publish travel alerts if highways or major roadways are affected by fire.
- At the local level, fire districts are tasked with corralling wildfires that aren’t on federal or state land. Typically, they’re too busy putting out fires to publish information about their efforts. Local sheriff’s officers and emergency management departments are better bets for information, and they often post to Facebook or Twitter. County sheriffs are in charge of ordering and coordinating evacuations. Emergency management departments provide information about resources to those displaced by fires.
- On Twitter, search #wawildfire for updates from around the state.
- Check our Wildfires page for news stories about the fires.
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