Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday declared a state of emergency in 20 counties mostly on the dry side of the Cascades, an area vulnerable to wildfire. Resources are stretched thin in the battle to save homes and property.
Inslee’s declaration came after a flyover of two active wildfires, on either side of Spokane, the state’s second largest city. Dozens of homes and out buildings have burned. Farmers have lost fields, and livestock are displaced.
Incident Commander Nathan Rabe briefed the governor on damage from the Wellesley Fire north of Spokane. He told Inslee the Yale fire burning to the south claimed approximately 10 residences and 500 acres. A third blaze, the Hart Fire, continues to burn thousands of acres 50 miles to the northwest. It claimed homes including on the Spokane Tribe Indian Reservation.
Inslee pointed to climate change as a contributing factor.
“Wildlands are in explosive conditions right now,” Inslee said. “A combination of dead and dying trees [and] climate change is changing the significance of temperatures and drought.”
Inslee is running for reelection this year. His Republican challenger Bill Bryant said in an email he was evacuated from his Winthrop home in north central Washington last year.
Bryant said wildfires “are a reminder of the importance of sound forest management practices.”