OLYMPIA – Public access to most of the Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County is closed due to a major wildfire that has burned nearly 80,000 acres in southeast Washington.
| WILDFIRE UPDATE (Sept. 12) – The Tucannon River Road is now open to the Tucannon Guard Station 8.5 miles south of The Last Resort RV Park, allowing access to WDFW's Wooten Wildlife Area and use of six of its nine campgrounds (three are located beyond the road closure.) The Umatilla Forest, including the Washington portion of the Wenaha Tucannon Wilderness Area, remains closed.
The wildlife area, owned and managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), is adjacent to the Umatilla National Forest, which was closed to the public Aug. 30 because of the advancing Columbia Complex Wildland Fire.
The Tucannon River Road is closed one mile south of the Last Resort RV Park near Blind Grade. Access to both the forest and wildlife area south of that point is restricted to staff and fire fighting personnel only. Maloney Mountain Road, accessed from Dayton via Patit Road on the west side of the wildlife area, is also closed.
“Fires are burning south and west of the Wooten,” said Shana Winegeart, WDFW assistant manager for the Wooten Wildlife Area. “Some access to the forest is through the Wooten, so we’re closed, too. Most of our area was burned in last year’s School Fire.”
All wildlife area campgrounds are closed, but limited camping may be available at the Last Resort RV Park (509-843-1556).
Winegeart said the 2,342-acre Hartsock Unit, north of Blind Grade and west of Oliphant Road, is still open. Maps of the Hartsock Unit are available at the Last Resort.
Mountain Road, along Scoggin Ridge on the northeast side of the Wooten, is open down to the forest boundary. Foot traffic is allowed from Mountain Road through last year’s burned area down into Tumalum Creek, Winegeart said.
For daily updates on the fire and access closures, call the Columbia Complex Information Office at 509-337-6059, or see http://inciweb.org/incident/443/.
For hunters and others planning to spend time in wildlife areas, recent closures and access restrictions due to wildfires underscore the necessity of staying abreast of area fire conditions, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager.
Hunting seasons for forest grouse, mourning dove and rabbit opened statewide today, as did archery deer hunting in some game management units. Black bear hunting in the Blue Mountains and northeast Washington opens Sept. 5, followed by early archery elk hunting in some units Sept. 8. Northcentral Washington’s high buck deer hunt opens Sept. 15.
“Conditions are changing so fast right now that there’s really no telling what lands will be open to hunters from day to day,” Ware said. “We strongly recommend that hunters keep tabs on conditions in the areas they intend to hunt right up until the day they plan to leave.”
Access restrictions and other information about all wildfires currently burning in Washington state – including the Tripod Complex Fire in Okanogan County where major closures remain in effect – can be found at http://inciweb.org/state/49/.
Conditions and access restrictions on other private and public land wildfires are reported by county on the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fire information webpage (http://www.dnr.wa.gov/fire/index.html) and on the DNR toll-free fire information line, 800-323-BURN.
With wildfire danger high throughout the state, WDFW currently prohibits open fires on its 830,000-plus acres of owned or managed wildlife areas and water access sites. Ware also reminded hunters to take extra caution with anything that could start a fire while hunting and in hunting camps.