Wildfires One Sign of the 'New Washington' Created by Climate Change, Inslee Says


Some perils of the "New Washington?" A relentless wildfire season.

That's the perspective Washington Gov. Jay Inslee offered Tuesday about the wildfires that are ravaging the state. Climate change will make this type of situation somewhat routine.

On Tuesday, Inslee held a press conference to update the public on what is going on with the wildfires in all over the state. He said an estimated 330,000 acres burned on Monday alone.

Some of the most heavily impacted areas have been in eastern Washington, in the town of Malden, south of Spokane, and Whitman County, where Pullman sits. Inslee is expected to be in that area on Thursday. Currently, the state is deciding if the National Guard needs to be deployed to help fight the fires.

"This is an unprecedented and heartbreaking event," Inslee said.

Inslee stressed that residents may need to reconsider how some things are done as climate change continues to make an impact on the state and the Pacific Northwest.

"We're living in a new world -- this is not the old Washington," Inslee said.

"A fire that you might've seen that was going to be OK over time is not OK any more because the conditions are so dry and are so hot because the climate has changed. This is a new world in forest and grassland fires that we have to be willing to recognize and that's why we are so sincere in our requests for people to help out in preventing these devastating losses."

Fire officials believe the fires were "human-caused" but they don't know how the fires started.

Meanwhile, there are 100,000 people without power due to high winds around the state.

Inslee said he is directing Emergency Management and the Department of Social and Health Services to determine if any emergency proclamations are needed to ensure food and cash assistance is available to those in need.

The Department of Natural Resources has closed its lands in Eastern Washington to public recreation until Friday, when further evaluations will be made.

"Whenever we close recreation lands to the public, our only motivation is safety," Hilary Franz, the Commissioner of Public Lands said in a statement.

"With more than 300,000 acres burning since Monday, this remains a very volatile and dangerous situation. Because of the scale of these fires, our state's resources are fully deployed. We are holding nothing back. But that means we must take every possible precaution to prevent new fires from being started. That's why we've taken action."

Gov. Inslee is encouraging those who need to evacuate to shelter to call the Red Cross at 509-670-5331.


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