Climate change increases the risk of wildfires

Because of climate change, Washington is at risk for more intense, severe wildfires. We're committed to reducing the impacts of climate change, and to help our state's communities prepare for the impacts that cannot be avoided. 

Increased risk of wildfires

Climate scientists say an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires is likely to become the new normal. Climate models indicate that the Northwest could see up to 1.1 million acres lost per year to wildfires by the 2040s.

Factors contributing to the increased risk include:

  • Earlier snowmelt
  • Rising temperatures
  • More frequent, longer heat waves
  • Drier summers
  • Low soil moisture content
  • Spread of the mountain pine beetle and other insects that kill or weaken trees and plants
  • More fuels from dead trees and plants
Click image to enlarge map.

Threats to your health, the economy, and the environment

As the frequency and intensity of wildfires increase, so do their impacts.


  • Cause unhealthy levels of air quality
  • Create respiratory problems for some people
  • Can contribute to premature death
  • Threaten homes, property, and agriculture
  • Destroy forestland and resources
  • Damage wildlife habitat.

We are monitoring air quality

We track air quality around the state every day using a network of monitors to measure air pollutants, such as particle pollution from wildfires. During wildfires we often add more monitors. Visit our air quality monitoring page to view air quality levels in your community.

What you can do

More than 80 percent of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by people. Follow these guidelines to help prevent wildfires and protect your health and property:

  • NEVER throw cigarettes out your window
  • Don't park hot vehicles on the grass
  • Make sure trailer chains don't drag on the ground causing sparks
  • Clear the perimeter of your house from pine needles and yard waste
  • Watch the news, or follow social media, during wildfire season
  • Adhere to burn bans
  • Report illegal burning
  • Extinguish camp fires completely
  • Have an evacuation plan in place
  • Visit Ready, Set, GO!  for more emergency preparedness tips.
Ultimately, the key to slowing climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially from the largest contributor, transportation, by adopting methods to reduce your carbon footprint.

Flickr photos of large wildfires in Washington.