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Climate Change in WA: Could Equal More Fast Moving Wildfires

November 22, 2011

SEATTLE - The planet is seeing more climate extremes, according to a new report - and in Washington that could mean more fast-moving wildfires.

The message is clear here and around the nation, says retired wildland firefighter Bill Moody of Twisp, because the trend is growing toward longer and more severe wildfire seasons.

"A greater potential for catastrophic fire and resource losses, including perhaps their homes and outbuildings and a threat to their lives."

The combination of allowing more dense forests with warmer winters that kill off fewer insects is increasing the risk of wildfire danger, Moody says, especially for those homes built on the edges of urban areas.

Opponents dispute that the science is exact on climate change, but Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology, says there is a measureable trend. He says a changing climate translates into more extreme weather.

"What is currently a heat wave that occurs only one year in 20, by the end of the century might occur every one to two years."

There seem to be fewer years with long, cold winters in Washington, Moody says, which leaves more insects to infect trees. Those damaged trees, he adds, equal greater fire risk.

"Less healthy trees, a lot of them appear to be kind of drought stricken, a lot of dead needles, which just adds to the potential for fast-moving wildfires."

The full report is online at

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - WA