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caption: Gas Works Park was packed with visitors on March 3, 2021, an especially sunny day.
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Gas Works Park was packed with visitors on March 3, 2021, an especially sunny day.

Here comes wildfire season in the Northwest. What to know looking ahead

Wildfire season is off to an early start in the Northwest.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources says it responded to 91 small wildfires between April 12-18, which is more than the average for the entire month in a normal year.

And while the last week of warm weather has been welcome, it's adding to dry spells across the West, and it's not likely to stay so clear for long.

Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond says the summer will likely be dry and hot, and strong winds could fan the flames of neighboring fires as the area saw last year.

If there's any good news — if you can call it "good news" — Bond says the last week of sunny, warm spring weather is not a sign of broader changes to the region's climate.

"Our last week of excellent weather, it's just kind of a fluke, so we can't credit global warming with what we've enjoyed recently," he explains. "But on the other hand, it is occurring."

And that has meant drier summers in recent years.

Warmer weather could also mean the snowpack will melt more quickly and deplete the state's reservoirs for the dry season. Bond says the melt is not expected to be especially fast this year, but it's possible; that could mean early fires in some areas.

Bond notes that it's hard to guess what the next few months will bring.

"What hand are you dealt? We just had a nice one for people who like being outdoors and puttering around in their garden and so forth. But wait until the weekend. Our rains will be back, and for many of us, it'll actually be kind of a comfort."