Washington DNR urges public to practice better fire safety

With 50 wildfires already occurring in Washington state this year, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges all residents to recommit to safe, responsible outdoor burning practices.

DNR’s request is outlined in their recent press release. The text of that release is:

Public urged to check burn piles and put campfires completely out

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has recently experienced several fires from escaped debris burn piles and campfires.
“We ask the public to please be careful when having a campfire. Please be sure that the fire is out completely before leaving it unattended. Also, please check any burn piles that you have burned since fall,” said Bob Johnson, Assistant Region Manager for Wildfire, DNR Pacific Cascade Region. “Escaped debris burn piles are one of the leading causes of wildfires.”
According to the National Interagency Coordination Center Predictive Services, Southwest Washington has only received 75 percent of its normal precipitation since October, and January was exceptionally dry. The summer is predicted to be warmer than normal and could be drier than normal and may not get the normal spring rains.
The best way to be sure a burn pile is out 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.

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.

DNR wildfire and agency leadership

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 on-call 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, 92 state natural areas, rule administration across 12 million acres of Washington forestlands, and the Washington State Geology Survey.


Media Contact

Dan Nelson

Communications/Outreach Manager