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The American West Is So Dry That a Fire Broke Out in a River

Somebody call the fireboat?

Washington DNR

Washington State is under a mighty heat bubble, with temperatures in the 90s and dry, constant winds blowing over the land. In other words, it’s primed for wildfires—a fact made evident yesterday when a conflagration sprouted up in the middle of a dang river.

The blaze was spotted in a logjam under a bridge in Arlington, about 40 miles north of Seattle. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources writes on Facebook:

To give you an idea of how ripe Washington’s landscapes—terrestrial and aquatic—are for wildfire, DNR firefighters just responded to a log jam on fire IN the Stillaguamish River in Arlington.

Fortunately, our crews have more than enough water to put out this fire. Unfortunately, this is an indicator of how heat, dry weather and humans can combine to quickly start fires this time of year.

Our firefighters have tough jobs to do. Help them out by being extra careful when playing or working outside right now.

As to where the flames came from, the department’s Twitter fans are guessing either somebody flicked a cigarette out a car window or the river carried away an unattended campfire. The latter shouldn’t be the case, as Washington has banned all campfires due to “critical fire weather.” Aside from being hot, 100 percent of the state is abnormally dry, as per the U.S. Drought Monitor. In fact, three-quarters of the West falls under this category, with the worst aridity persisting in California, where about 60 percent of the land is in severe-to-exceptional drought.

U.S. Drought Monitor

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.