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May is Wildfire Awareness Month!

Last summer, United States Forest Service (USFS) crews responded to over 100 fires in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (forest) – over half of those fires were caused by humans. Another busy fire season is anticipated for 2024.

The cooler spring weather has helped keep fire danger low, but conditions will change as the weather becomes hotter and drier this summer. In addition, the low snowpack and summer forecasts prompted the Department of Ecology to declare a drought emergency for most of Washington.

During Wildfire Awareness Month, we’d like to bust a common myth surrounding wildfires in the Leavenworth area.

MYTH >> The City of Leavenworth responds to wildfires.

FACT >> In the Leavenworth area, there are multiple agencies at the local, state, and federal levels that work together to respond to and mitigate wildfires, including but not limited to Chelan County Fire District No. 3 (CCFD3), Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and USFS.

USFS has been responding to wildland fires in our area for decades. Science has changed the way they think and manage wildland fires. While USFS still suppresses fires, they understand that fire has a role in nature that can lead to healthy ecosystems which is why they ignite prescribed fires.

This spring, USFS used prescribed fires across approximately 9,951 acres of the forest. Prescribed burns help restore healthy and resilient forests by reducing the quantity of burnable fuels that would potentially feed wildfires, promote the growth of fire-adapted and native vegetation, better protect nearby communities, and reduce the risk and intensity of future wildfires.

Wildfire preparedness isn’t one-size-fits-all. CCFD3 and DNR partnered together to offer free home assessments to Leavenworth residents for home-hardening tips against wildfires. In addition, CCFD3 provides a free mobile chipping service and chipped nearly 100 cubic yards of woody debris.

While the City doesn’t respond to or manage wildfires, we are taking steps to be more FireWise, such as establishing minimum regulations (Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) codes) consistent with nationally recognized good practices for the safeguarding of life and property protection, and establishing required construction materials, methods, and planning associated with a structure’s ability to withstand exposure to wildfire events.

It is not a question of if, but when, the next major wildland fire will occur in our area. Access the Wildland Fire Action Guide to help you become wildfire-ready – available at cityofleavenworth.com/community/firewise/.

Questions about living in an area prone to wildfires or becoming more FireWise? Visit chelanfd3.org, wildlandfireRSG.org or fs.usda.gov/main/okawen/fire.

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