(The Center Square) – A wildfire south of East Wenatchee, which began over the Fourth of July Weekend, is drawing a swift response from the state.
The Batterman Road Fire has burned 8,000 acres since it began on the Fourth of July in Douglas County, south of East Wenatchee. Local authorities report 33 fire engines, 177 firefighters, two helicopters and three air tankers were called in to fight the blaze.
Residents were issued Level 3 "Go Now" evacuation notices, and the town of Rock Island in the Wenatchee metro area saw roadways closed. People living in the unincorporated town of Palisades to the east of Wenatchee received Level 1 "Get Set" evacuation notices. The fire was 10% contained as of Tuesday morning.
The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center reported 21 fires for every 315 acres in Washington Tuesday and 19 fires for 506 acres in Oregon to the south. The state's biggest fire to date in 2021 was the Lind Fire in Adams County to the east, which blackened 20,000 acres before firefighters reined it in.
Washington firefighters are also mopping up the 7,600-acre Joseph Canyon Fire burning on the state's border with Oregon. It was 95% contained as of Tuesday, according to INCIWEB.
Smaller wildfires have dotted the landscape of Washington, including the Andrus Fire south of Spokane, which has burned 300 acres on top of the 20-acre Cedar Hills Fire near Tacoma. The historic heatwave that's baked Washington over past weeks has prompted western states to lean on the Biden administration for help ahead of what could be another destructive wildfire season.
Fires in Washington have become more expensive to put out every year. Last decade, the state spent more than half a billion dollars putting out hundreds of fires. In May, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation funding Washington's wildland firefighting resources at $62.5 million per year.
While temperatures have fallen to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for most places west of the Cascades, forecasts for Central and Eastern Washington hold steady in the triple digits for the foreseeable future with no rain in sight.
Unusual weather phenomena in 2020, including high winds and lightning strikes, contributed to Washington's historic wildfires that burned more than 750,000 acres. The Predictive Services National Interagency Fire Center reported 7,444 lightning strikes in June, just below the state's 20-year average. About 85% of fires in Washington state are human-caused, the Department of Natural Resources reports.
A statewide burn ban was also issued by Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz on Friday ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. It ends on Sept. 30.