Fire season on track to match 'some of the most devastating wildfire years' in Washington

As we head into another dry weekend, two big fires continue to burn in Western Washington and hundreds of others have popped up statewide, many over the holiday weekend.  

So far, the fire season is on track to match some of the most devastating wildfire years in the state of Washington. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports there are more than 800 fires that have burned to date in 2023 statewide, with the current majority in Western Washington – which is unusual for this time of year.  

This week, residents near Shelton were forced to evacuate from the fast-growing McEwan Fire.  

"You could see flames, big flames and real black smoke," said Pete Arnold, a resident who lives near the McEwan Fire. "It’s scary there is no way around it, particularly if it catches you by surprise, and you are told to get." 

Estimated at around 300 acres Friday, it's one of the largest in the state. The DNR has had air crews and hand crews working to contain that fire since it began earlier in the week. By Friday afternoon, state officials reported it was at 10% containment.  

Thursday the DNR also threw air resources at the fast moving McKenna Fire. It forced the evacuation of around 40 home near Roy.  

"The helicopters started coming after I called 911 in a panic," said George Weber, one of the residents who had to evacuate.

The Fire Weather and Avalanche Center reports that 27% of the county is experiencing abnormally dry conditions and 73% is experiencing moderate drought.  

Even though residents were allowed back in, impacts lingered. 

"I was aspirating a little bit and breathing hard and choking from the smoke," said Weber. 

Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands says the Tunnel Five Fire also continues to burn in Skamania County at 556 acres and 20% containment. She says Hot Shot crews have been rappelling down a 1,100-foot cliff to attack from above, while a base crew climbs and fights from below. 

"All of our teams have already been working tirelessly, and they are getting exhausted," said Franz.  

The DNR says in addition to the McKewan and Tunnel Five fires, there are around 814 fires that have burned to date in 2023 statewide, burning more than 20,000 acres in total. 

"What it is most startling right now, is usually, we will see fires in our Central and Eastern part of our state at this point in time, and we will be running from one fire to the next, but we are seeing it every corner of the state, and especially Western Washington," said Franz. 

Franz says the DNR believes that most of the recent fires in the state have been human-caused. The DNR is asking everyone to do their part to keep wildfires from spreading across the state. Officials ask that you; follow burn bans, put out campfires thoroughly, avoid pouring hot charcoal on the ground, avoid parking on dry grass and make sure there are no chains dragging from your vehicles that could cause a spark.