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U.S. Forest Service: Wash., Ore. see ‘significant increase’ in human-caused fires

Officials report 197 fires over June and July on National Forest land


Residents of a tent encampent try and put out a fire that spread to the brush.

Karen Ducey/The Seattle Times/TNS

By Amanda Zhou
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — A “significant increase” in wildfires has been caused by humans in National Forest lands in Oregon and Washington this year, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Between June 1 and July 28, 197 human-caused or undetermined-caused fire starts have been reported; the total number of fires in 2023 wasn’t immediately available. In 2022, 409 human-caused fires were reported in Oregon and Washington Forest Service land. In 2021, 494 were reported.

“The reasons behind this increase are unknown, but human-caused fires are preventable,” the agency said in a news release.

In Seattle, the Seattle Fire Department responded to 298 brush and bark fires in July, far more than the 113 brush fire responses in July 2022.

Public lands in the U.S. are managed by several state, local and federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Parks Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Officials warn the wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest could be worse than anywhere else in the nation. In June, the National Interagency Fire Center’s wildfire outlook showed all of Washington with above-normal fire potential from July through September.

Since Aug. 16, the Forest Service has issued restrictions on all campfires, smoking and other activities in forests. All campfires, charcoal or pellet fires are prohibited even in developed campgrounds. Portable cooking stoves and heating devices using bottled fuel are still allowed.

Local officials in Seattle have also stressed the importance in preventing brush fires within city limits as vegetation dries out.

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