Hot, dry and windy weather in the region has ushered in new burn restrictions in Lewis County and across Washington state.
According to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Washington saw a spike in wildfires last week, including nearly 40 incidents over a three-day period. Over the weekend, Lewis County saw at least 11 brush fires, including one in the Salkum area that covered more than an acre, according to Fire Marshal Doyle Sanford. He noted the fires were exacerbated by low humidity and east winds.
“It would not be uncommon in the middle of the summer to have that many,” Sanford said Monday. “For this time of the year, that’s pretty high.”
According to DNR, Southwest Washington’s wildfire danger is higher than the rest of the state, at the “moderate” level. This weekend, temperatures in the Olympia area reached into the 80s. Rain is forecast to break the dry spell by the end of the week, when temperatures are projected to dip from the 70s to 60s.
“Fire season is upon us, and we’re asking the public to not take any chances,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in a prepared statement. “Strong winds and dry weather leave us vulnerable to fast-spreading wildfires, and we cannot protect our firefighters, forests and communities without the public’s help. We need everyone to avoid starting an outdoor fire and, if they do, to fully extinguish it and have a hose ready if the fire escapes outside the burn area.”
To stifle the potential of brush fires and in consultation with DNR, Sanford imposed restrictions in all unincorporated areas, citing “substantial fire dangers.” Under the order, only recreational and private-land fires are allowed. Those fires must be less than 3 feet in diameter and contained by an 8-inch tall ring with a 2 foot buffer of exposed soil. Campfires must have 10 foot buffers cleared of all flammable materials and 20 foot buffers cleared of overhead flammable materials or fuels.
Additionally, campfires must be attended at all times by someone 16 or older who is prepared to extinguish the fire with a shovel, charged hose or 5-gallon bucket of water.
Those who do light campfires allowed under the regulations should completely extinguish them with water or moist soil and stirring until everything is cool to the touch.
“The use of self-contained camp stoves is encouraged as an alternative,” reads a press release.
The restrictions apply to individuals with open burning permits, and no new permits to burn brush will be issued during this time.
Per DNR’s temporary restrictions, small debris burns and permitted burns are prohibited on DNR-protected land in the Pacific Cascade Region, which includes the majority of Lewis County and Southwest Washington.
For DNR restrictions, a misdemeanor citation will be issued to violators, in addition to fire suppression costs if an offender is proven “negligent.”