Public Service Message from Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Warmer weather expected statewide next week will increase wildfire danger
OLYMPIA – Ahead of warmer weather forecasted for next week, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning residents to make sure their campfires and burn piles are fully extinguished before abandoning them. DNR has already responded to over 50 fires caused by escaped debris burns experienced many outdoor debris burn piles that have escaped into a fire.
“Last year, we experienced one of the most devastating wildfire years in our state’s history,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who oversees the DNR and the state’s wildfire fighting force. “Checking your burn piles and keeping a hose nearby when burning yard debris, and putting out your campfires completely out before walking are easy ways to keep your neighbors safe as the weather gets warmer.”
This time of year, weather conditions are always variable as spring turns into summer. Early spring, before plants fully green up, is a deceptively risky time for wildfires. Dead grass and last year’s leaf litter can dry out rapidly, providing fuel that can allow fast spreading brush fires to strike unexpectedly. According to the National Weather Service, next week is expected to bring warmer and dryer temperatures that could climb to nearly 70 degrees.
The best way to be certain a burn pile fully extinguished is to dig into the ash and feel the area with the back of your hand to make sure there is no heat left. It is common for rain to create a cap over the ash, with heat remaining inside. Winds can weaken the cap and allow the pile to reignite. Campfires should be doused with water and stirred until all coals are completely extinguished and is cool to the touch.
Fire safety precautions
DNR recommends following the safety precautions below when burning debris:
- Find out if a permit is needed and follow it. Call 1-800-323-BURN or go to fortress.wa.gov/dnr/protection/firedanger to find your county’s rules and the fire danger.
- Make sure there is a firebreak, cleared of all flammable material, for at least 5 feet around your fire.
- Only burn one pile at a time. Keep all fires at least 50 feet away from structures and 500 feet away from forest slash.
- Never light when the wind is blowing from the east or when it is strong enough to sway trees, extend flags, or cause rough waves on the water.
- Make sure someone stays with the fire until it is completely out. Keep a shovel and a connected water hose, or at least five gallons of water, on hand at all times.
- Extinguish the fire if smoke or ash becomes a nuisance for nearby residents.
- Burn only natural vegetation from the site. Never burn rubber, plastic, asphalt, garbage, dead animals, petroleum products, paint or other materials that emit dense smoke or create offensive odors.
A misdemeanor citation will be issued for people who do not follow the rules and conditions of their burn permits. If proven negligent, the offender will be billed for the fire suppression costs.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz oversees the Department of Natural Resources and its responsibility to prevent and fight wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. This includes supervising the state’s largest fire department, which participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting, as well as managing 3 million acres of state trust lands, 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands, 96 state natural areas, rule administration across 12 million acres of Washington forestlands, and the Washington State Geology Survey.