Hunters planning to be afield this month and next may find access closed or restricted in some areas due to wildfires.
“Hunters and others recreating outdoors need to check access restrictions before heading out, be prepared to use camp stoves rather than open fires, and take extra caution with anything that could start a fire outdoors,” said Mark Quinn, lands division manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
With several large wildfires burning and fire danger high throughout the state, WDFW is not allowing open fires on 830,000 acres of department-owned and managed land, including wildlife areas and water-access sites. The open-fire ban likely will extend at least through September, Quinn said. Some popular wildlife areas, such as the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima, are posted for no open fires through Oct. 15.
Hunting seasons for black bear and cougar have been under way in most of the state since Aug. 1, and forest grouse, dove and early archery deer hunting seasons open Sept. 1.
The open-fire ban is consistent with fire restrictions set by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which evaluates fire risk for much of the state's public lands, Quinn explained.
WDFW lands are protected from wildfire by entities with professional fire-fighting crews, including DNR, local fire districts and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The major wildfires burning in Washington this season thus far have not involved WDFW lands, Quinn said.
For the past month, USFS crews and other firefighters have been battling the Tripod Complex wildfires in north central Washington. The Tripod Complex fires currently affect nearly 120,000 acres, and two other wildfires continue to burn in western Washington—the Carbon Copy fire outside Mount Rainier National Park and the Bear Gulch fire in the Olympic National Forest.
Quinn said all hunters, but particularly those planning to participate in the popular Sept. 15-25 high buck hunt in wilderness areas of north-central Washington, should be aware of specific closures.
Managers of the Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests have closed the eastern portion of the Pasayten Wilderness Area from the Chewuch Trail (510) east to the forest boundary. Additional trail closures are in place west and south of that location, and all will remain in effect until further notice.
For additional information on the Tripod Complex wildfires see http://www.inciweb.org/incident/341/. For details on access closures check http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/oka/fire/closure or call the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest at 509-826-3795, Methow Ranger District at 509-996-4000, or Tonasket Ranger District at 509-486-2186.
Those planning to recreate outdoors can check conditions before by calling DNR's toll-free fire information line, 800-323-BURN, or checking DNR's fire information webpage at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/fire/index.html.