With wildfire danger high throughout the state, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is not allowing open fires on its 800,000-plus acres of owned or managed wildlife areas and water access sites.
The ban includes campfires, except in iron or concrete fire pits provided in campgrounds. Those using fire pits are reminded to keep campfires small, constantly attended, and completely extinguished upon retiring for the night or leaving the area.
Unlike many other public recreation lands, few WDFW wildlife areas maintain established campgrounds with iron or concrete campfire pits. Where fire pits are not available, bottled gas cookstoves are an option.
The ban is in keeping with fire restrictions set by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which evaluates fire risk for much of the state's public lands. WDFW lands are protected from wildfire by other entities with professional fire-fighting crews, including DNR, local fire districts, and the U.S. Forest Service.
"We've been lucky so far this season," WDFW Director Jeff Koenings said, "but with these extremely dry conditions, the wildfire season is far from over."
"We work together with our sister agency DNR on this critical issue," Koenings added. "They're the experts on wildfire control, and we depend on them when fires burn on our lands."
Several small wildfires have involved WDFW lands in recent weeks, from the Oak Creek Wildlife Area northwest of Yakima to the Asotin Wildlife Area south of Clarkston. All have been quickly controlled.
Paul Dahmer, WDFW's Wildlife Area Section Manager, notes that with forest grouse, dove and early archery seasons all opening on the first of September, hunters will need to take extra caution while hunting and at hunting camps. The statewide open fire ban will likely extend at least through September, Dahmer says, although many popular wildlife areas, like Oak Creek, have a standing rule and are posted for no open fires through October 15.
Hunters, fishers, and other outdoor recreationists can check conditions before they go afield by calling DNR's toll-free fire information line, 800-323-BURN, or checking county-by-county on DNR's fire information webpage, http://www.dnr.wa.gov/fire/index.html.