OLYMPIA—As the Fourth of July weekend approaches with drier-than-normal conditions in some parts of Washington, state land managers ask those heading outdoors to be careful with fire.
People cause 85 percent of Washington’s wildfires, and caution and common sense are the keys to preventing damage, state land managers agree. Obeying fire restrictions and not letting a campfire get out of control are among the most important steps outdoor enthusiasts can take to preserve recreation lands.
Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) firefighters protect more than 12 million acres of private and state-owned lands, including lands managed by WDFW and state parks. Wildfires take a steep toll on state resources, devastating public recreation lands, destroying wildlife habitat and requiring costly firefighting efforts.
The risk of a wildfire sparked by human activity goes up in prolonged dry weather or on a windy day.
Fire-danger levels and burn ban information is available at http://fortress.wa.gov/dnr/firedanger/BurnRisk.aspx.
The Fourth of July holiday brings extra risks from fireworks, even though fireworks are not allowed on state public lands.
Many state lands have additional restrictions on fire use. Campfires and other kinds of open fires are not allowed on many of the 900,000 acres of wildlife lands managed by WDFW. On WDFW lands where campfires are allowed, they usually are restricted to metal fire rings and must be kept to less than three feet in height and diameter. Specific rules by location can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/public_conduct_rules.
“Even where campfires are allowed, it’s important to pay attention to weather conditions before heading out,” said Jennifer Quan, lands manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Many of Washington’s 121 state parks allow campfires, but only in metal fire rings or grills in established campgrounds or picnic areas. Campers and picnickers are reminded to be careful with barbecue grill ashes and briquettes by drowning them with water and disposing of them properly in either a campfire ring or a designated container provided in some parks.
During high fire-danger periods, bans on any open flame including campfires may be in place at specific parks. State park managers work with DNR and county fire districts to set fire restrictions at individual parks based on conditions in and around the park. These restrictions may allow only gas stoves or briquettes in conditions where there is high fire danger. Campfire information for specific parks is available by calling park offices.
Those recreating outdoors should follow these DNR campfire safety tips:
- Never start a campfire when wind is strong or local conditions are so dry that fire danger is high
- Use a screen over and around a campfire to minimize sparks flying out
- Keep fires less than three feet in height and diameter
- Keep five gallons of water and a shovel nearby
- Never leave fires unattended
- Extinguish a fire by drowning it thoroughly with water, stirring until cold, and then drowning it again
To report a wildfire or unattended campfire call 1(800) 562-6010 or 911.