Adventure Guys: State Parks and DNR ban all campfires

Staff writerJuly 31, 2013 

Campfires have been banned on most lands in the state, following announcements from State Parks and the Department of Natural Resources.

JEFFREY P. MAYOR — Staff writer

Campers in many places in Washington will have to come up with alternatives for cooking their meals, as campfires have been banned on most state lands. The bans are in place to help prevent human-caused wildfires during the current hot, dry conditions on both sides of the Cascades.

State Parks announced Wednesday that campfires in all state parks are prohibited until further notice.

Campers can still use devices that allow for control of combustion, a State Parks news release said. Those include propane and liquid gas stoves appropriate for camping and backcountry use; propane barbecue devices that do not use solid briquettes; propane or pressurized white gas warming devices that have a shield or base; and solid fuel citronella or other candles in a metal bucket or glass container.

The decision by State Parks follows Tuesday’s announcement by the Department of Natural Resources that it was banning all outdoor burning on lands protected by the agency.

This ban, now in effect through Sept. 30, applies to all forestlands in the state, except federal lands, and prohibits campfires in all state, local and private campgrounds.

State Parks officials said that agency’s ban on open fires and campfires is intended to minimize public confusion and cooperate in DNR’s effort to prevent wildfires. The Department of Natural Resources provides fire protection on approximately 50 percent of State Park lands.

Fire managers on national lands — including Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, and Gifford Pinchot, Olympic and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie national forests — have not put any bans in place but are monitoring conditions.

At Mount Rainier, small fires are allowed only in campfire rings in the park’s frontcountry campgrounds.

“The woods are very dry. We’re 32 days into no rain at (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport),” John Heckman, the forest’s assistant fire staff officer, said. “It has dried things out, the larger fuels and the duff layer, so it’s deep down dry.”

That’s why if people don’t properly extinguish a campfire, doused with water until it’s cool to the touch, the fire could smolder into the dry materials surrounding it and start a wildfire.

That’s why Heckman is urging forest campers to use a fire ring at a campground or build one, to help prevent a fire from escaping into dry materials.

“But the reason we haven’t put a ban on fires is the humidity in the air right now,” Heckman said. “If we get some east winds, our fire danger will go up really quickly and our concern, from a firefighting perspective, will go up quickly as well.”

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

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