Catastrophic forest fires have been on the increase, whether one accepts climate change and global warming as the culprits or not. According to the Washington Department of Ecology, “Washington is at risk for more intense, severed wildfire, because of climate change.” Over “1.1 million acres” are predicted to be lost to the regularity and intensity of wildfires per year in the next two decades.
Factors contributing to the increased risk include:
- Earlier snowmelt
- Rising temperatures
- More frequent, longer heat waves
- Drier summers
- Low soil moisture content
- Spread of the mountain pine beetle and other insects that kill or weaken trees and plants
- More fuels from dead trees and plants
Pend Oreille County is just as vulnerable to the frequency and intensity of wildfires as anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. We all notice milder winters and earlier breakups, the early growth of shrubs and willows along the roadways, longer garden growing season with less frost, and dry, windy summers.
Why be concerned:
- Catastrophic forest fires are the largest physical threat we have in Pend Oreille County; we are vulnerable every summer.
- Significant loss of life and property due to people living in the forest with only one, often times primitive, escape route.
- Loss of productive timberland and wildlife habitat.
- Pressure on man power, infrastructure, and resources.
- Health hazard from wildfire smoke and air pollution.
There is a way to avoid catastrophic forest fires and it should be started immediately. Our County forest are in terrible shape. We need to:
- dispose of mountains of slash and logging debris in an economically and environmentally healthy way.
- reduce and prevent the spread of insect and disease problems.
- encourage thinning, pruning and slash disposal in both precommercial & commercial thinning operations.
- promote economic utilization of merchantable material from salvages and sanitation
- work throughout the forest ecosystem.
Pend Oreille County has a well-developed, updated MULTI-JURISDICTION 2018 HAZARD MITIGATION PLAN UPDATE VOLUME 1 & Volume 2: PLANNING-AREA-WIDE ELEMENTS that covers avalanches, climate change, drought, earthquake, flood, landslide, severe weather, volcanoes, and wildfire. It would be good for all Pend Oreille County citizens to become familiar with these documents.