With the Labor Day holiday weekend fast approaching, the Washington state Department of Natural Resources is urging everyone to take responsibility for their actions when playing or working outdoors.
Most of Washington has seen temperatures higher than normal throughout the summer, with some areas of eastern Washington having gone more than 100 days without precipitation.
The combination of heat and lack of precipitation makes forests and grasslands more vulnerable to wildfire and can produce more extreme fire behavior.
“While Labor Day usually marks the end of summer, we’ve got a lot of the fire season left to go. We’re not seeing any relief from the hot, dry summer we’ve had any time soon, creating conditions that could lead to explosive wildfire growth,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “So far this season, our firefighters have done a great job keeping fires small, but they’ve been stretched thin all summer, due to regional fire activity. I ask everyone to give them a break and be very aware of any activities that may spark new fires.”
DNR has one of the state’s top wildland firefighting teams ready for deployment over the weekend. Crews, fire engines, helicopters and other firefighting aircraft are being pre-deployed to key locations around the state to provide quick response as new fires develop.
This year, 88 percent of Washington wildfires have been human-caused. As of Aug. 28, DNR has responded to 598 wildfires this year. Here is a comparisons of the last five years:
- 2012 – 476 fires for 15,181 acres
- 2013 – 87 fires for 89,992 acres
- 2014 – 676 fires for 191,431 acres
- 2015 – 873 fires for 326,231 acres
- 2016 – 676 fires for 14,246 acres
Campfires in Eastern Washington are currently prohibited. In western Washington, check with local campground hosts to see if you can have a campfire this holiday weekend.
Only build campfires where authorized and when not under a burn ban; put them completely out before leaving camp, even for a few minutes; use plenty of water and stir until the coals are cold to the touch.
Dispose of lit smoking materials appropriately.
Fireworks, incendiary ammunition and exploding targets start fires and are illegal to use or discharge on public lands, including all state forests.
Be sure chains and other metal parts aren't dragging from your vehicle or trailer. They can throw sparks and start fires.
Make sure all off-road vehicles have a properly functioning and approved spark arrester.
Be careful driving through or parking on dry grass or brush. Hot exhaust pipes can start the grass on fire. You may not even notice the fire until it’s too late.
Check tire pressure and condition. Driving on an exposed wheel rim can cause sparks.
Have brakes serviced regularly to prevent brake pads wearing too thin; metal on metal can spark or drop pieces of hot brake pad.
Help keep our firefighters safe by not flying drones around wildfires. Learn more about the unmanned aircraft systems (drones) and their interference with wildfire suppression efforts from the National Interagency Fire Center.
Daily updates on burn restrictions are available at 1-800-323-BURN or on the Fire Danger and Outdoor Burning risk map at fortress.wa.gov/dnr/protection/firedanger.
Those who spot illegal campfires or smoke are urged to call 9-1-1 immediately.