The 2015 fire season was a record-setting one for Washington’s Fire Service Resource Mobilization Plan. The Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office coordinated assistance to local fire jurisdictions in an unprecedented 30 fires this summer, beginning on June 13 with the Cold Springs Fire in Douglas County. The most recent Mobilization fire was the Horsethief Butte Fire in Klickitat County, which started on September 13. The previous record was 17 fires in 2012, capped by a mid-September lightning storm that ignited multiple fires across Chelan and Douglas Counties. In 2014, the Mobilization Plan was used 15 times, including the devastating Carlton Complex Fire in Okanogan County.
This year Washington state wildfires scorched over 1,005,423 acres across both the east and west sides of the Cascades. The largest fire in Washington this summer was the North Star fire in Okanogan County, which burned 218,138 acres. According to information provided by the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, 499 structures were destroyed by these blazes, among those 307 primary residences and 21 commercial buildings.
State Mobilization has only been used west of the Cascades twice in the 22 year history of the Mobilization Plan, in 1998’s Ball Park Fire in Cowlitz County and in 2012 on the Powerline 2 Fire in Mason County. In 2015, local fire departments on three western Washington fires were assisted by the Mobilization Plan, one each in Mason, Pierce, and Whatcom Counties. Local fire agencies were also assisted through the Mobilization Plan in Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Grant, Klickitat, Okanogan, Spokane, Stevens, and Walla Walla Counties.
The Washington State Fire Service Resource Mobilization Plan provides a mechanism for fire service resources to respond to fires, disasters, or other events that meet the intent of the Mobilization Act (RCW 43.43.961). Formalized in 1993, following the devastating 1991 Spokane Firestorm, “the Plan” allows for the utilization of statewide fire service resources when a fire or other disaster of significant size and destructiveness has overwhelmed a local fire jurisdiction and its mutual aid partners. The plan is administered by the Fire Protection Bureau of the Washington State Patrol, better known as the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office.