Drought and Wildfire Emergency in Washington State

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On July 14, a drought emergency was declared in Washington state, applying to all counties except for the Seattle, Tacoma and Everett metro areas.

What is a drought emergency declaration? A drought emergency means that water supply is projected to be below 75 percent of the average. Seattle, Tacoma and Everett are predicted to have enough water stored to supply all their residents sufficiently.

In May of this year, a drought advisory was issued for 29 counties due to drier than normal conditions, the fourth-driest March through April on record. The record breaking heat in June caused conditions to rapidly worsen leading to the drought emergency declaration. 

Because of the excessively dry and hot nature of this summer, wildfire season poses a real threat. In fact, we are already seeing more fires than average. The 2021 fire season is looking to be worse than 2020, which burned more than 700,000 acres according to KREM news. Washington state officials adopted emergency rules on July 16 to protect outdoor workers from the health risks of smoke exposure.

When the air quality index reaches 151, the Department of Labor and Industries now requires employers to provide areas where air is properly filtered, change work schedules to times when the air is safer to breathe, and provide extra break times/rest periods when feasible.

On days with bad air quality, the Washington State Department of Health advises residents to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed and run an air conditioner on the re-circulate setting with its fresh-air intake closed.
For further wildfire information such as burn risk in your area, visit Washington State Department of Natural Resources. For more smoke safety precautions visit the Washington State Department of Health website here.