As more hunters, fishers, and wildlife watchers head outdoors with the approach of fall, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) warns that the risk of wildfires remains high in many areas of the state – particularly on the east side of the Cascades.
Despite recent rainfall in most western counties, a few days of hot weather can dry out twigs, pine needles and grasses to the point where they are easily ignited, said Dave Brittell, assistant director of WDFW's wildlife program. And larger branches, logs and downed trees remain as flammable as ever.
"Just because we've had a little rain in the past couple of weeks doesn't mean that the fire danger is over," Brittell said. "We are urging everyone who plans to spend time outdoors to take precautions against starting a wildfire."
Runaway campfires are a major concern, and Brittell cautions outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds that they can be held financially liable for the cost of containing a blaze they started.
In six counties where the fire danger remains the highest, WDFW has banned campfires – except in officially approved iron or concrete fire pits – on all lands the agency owns or manages. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has similarly banned outdoor burning on DNR-protected lands in those same six counties, which include Klickitat, Okanogan, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille and Spokane counties.
Where fire pits are not available, bottled gas cookstoves are recommended.
Anyone who plans to hunt or camp on DNR lands first should call the agency's "Burn Line" at 1-800-323-BURN for the latest information on fire restrictions. Additional information is available on the Northwest Fire Prevention Education Team's website at www.pnwfire.org.
"We also want to remind hunters and other campers that they need to get written permission from private land owners before they build a fire, regardless of what county they're in," Brittell said.
Besides campfires, the Northwest Fire Prevention Education Team has identified several other potential fire starters:
- Sparks from chainsaws
- Hot vehicle exhaust systems
- Reflected and magnified sunlight from broken glass
- Tossed cigarettes
- Discarded fireworks
- Burning debris
"So far, our public lands have been spared the kind of destruction we've seen this year in some of our neighboring states," Brittell said. "It's up to the people who use and enjoy our outdoor areas to help keep it that way."