With the three-day Labor Day holiday approaching, fire experts with the Washington Department of Natural Resources are urging campers, hikers, woodcutters and other forest visitors to be especially careful with fire this weekend. Despite some recent rain and cooler weather, fire danger remains high.
“Even though our large fires have been contained, we are still seeing new fires,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “We’re asking people to be extremely cautious over the Labor Day weekend.”
Hot and dry conditions in Washington this summer helped fan the flames of the Carlton Complex fire, the worst in state history. In an effort to reduce human-caused wildfires, DNR issued a statewide burn ban on all lands under DNR protection, effective through Sept. 30. The ban applies to all forest lands in Washington state, except federal lands. While campfires are allowed in approved pits west of the Cascade crest in all state, local and private campgrounds, they are not allowed east of the Cascades.
Always check to see if there are additional local restrictions on campfires before leaving home to go camping or hiking. Because campgrounds may choose to ban campfires, it’s best to check with the campground host before considering a campfire.
Daily updates on burn restrictions are available at 1-800-323-BURN or on DNR’s website at www.dnr.wa.gov. Click on “fire information and prevention” and go to “wildfire related maps.” The “burn risk map” link is in the bottom, right-hand corner.
In areas where campfires are allowed, DNR asks the public to follow these suggestions:
• Clear all vegetation away from the fire ring (remove all flammable materials such as needles, leaves, sticks, etc.).
• Keep your campfire small.
• Keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby for throwing dirt on the fire if it gets out of control.
• Never leave a campfire unattended.
When putting out your campfire, you should:
• First, drown the campfire with water.
• Next, mix the ashes and embers with soil. Scrape all partially-burned sticks and logs to make sure all the hot embers are removed.
• Stir the embers after they are covered with water and make sure everything is wet.
• Feel the coals, embers, and any partially burned wood with your hands; everything should be cool to the touch.
• When you think you are done, take an extra minute and add more water. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again.
• If water is unavailable, use moist dirt. Be careful not to bury any hot or burning material, as it can smolder and later start a wildfire.
• Finally, check the entire campsite for possible sparks or embers; it only takes one to start a forest fire.
• If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.