OLYMPIA - Concerned about the high risk of wildfires, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is limiting vehicle access on lands it owns and manages throughout the state to existing open roads.
Effective immediately, no off-road travel or parking will be allowed off graveled roads or parking areas, said Mark Quinn, WDFW lands manager. Included in this restriction are designated "Green Dot" road management areas, where visitors are normally allowed to park or camp 100 feet from an open road.
"The fire danger is extreme throughout the state, and this is one precaution we can take short of closing department lands to public access," Quinn said. "We don't want to do that, and we're urging everyone visiting WDFW lands to abide by the new road restrictions."
High summer temperatures, combined by sparse rainfall, have left moisture levels in grass and brush at the lowest levels in decades, according to the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service.
Besides urging compliance with the new WDFW road restrictions, Quinn asks that hunters and other visitors take several additional precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire on department lands. These include:
- Parking vehicles over exposed gravel or soil that is free of any vegetation to reduce the chance of hot exhaust starting a fire.
- Checking the undercarriage of your vehicle for weeds or other vegetation that could ignite.
- Avoiding smoking outside your car and using the ashtray for ashes and cigarette butts.
- Using gas stoves for outdoor cooking. Virtually all of Washington is closed to outdoor fires and outdoor cooking with anything except gas or propane.
"If you're hunting, the safest way to do it is on foot," Quinn said. "Please respect private property and take every precaution to prevent wildfires. Everyone should carry a shovel, bucket and a fire extinguisher if possible."