At least 1/3 of Washington wildfires could have been prevented

SEATTLE -- Fifteen large wildfires are burning across Washington state as wildfire season continues into early September. This week, we learned many of these fires could have been prevented.

The Washington Department of Nature Resources tweeted that of 1,211 wildfires this year in the state, 401 wildfires caused by humans. And hundreds of additional fires are still under investigation.

The problem is even bigger across the Pacific Northwest. The United States Forest Service Pacific Northwest division said last month that of the 2,857 wildfires crews were battling in California, Oregon and Washington 71 percent were human-caused.

They also added that so far, $435 million dollars had been spent battling wildfires this fire season.

The National Parks Service reports an even higher number. According to their website, as many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. They said human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.

Wildfires can start naturally from lightning or spontaneous combustion usually involving decomposing bark or mulch piles.

Those statistics are one reason why state officials urged campers and hikers to obey fire restrictions and warned drivers of the fine for throwing a lit cigarette out their car.

Wildfire season peaked in August with above normal temperatures and significantly less rain than July which allowed for lots of fuels across the state.

DNR said you can prevent wildfires by not parking your vehicle by dry, grassy areas and just being aware of where wildfire risk is in your area.

DNR is required by state law to investigate and prosecute people who are responsible for causing wildfires. If you are found responsible you could be liable to pay the costs of the fighting the fire in addition to court and litigation costs.