Recreational fire ban lifted in unincorporated Whatcom County

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 15, 2013 

Campfires in unincorporated Whatcom County are OK again, as recent rains allowed the Whatcom County Fire Marshal's Office to lift restrictions on recreational fires Friday morning, Aug. 16.

Land-clearing and yard debris fires are still banned.

Recreational fires are less than 3 feet in diameter, burning only seasoned firewood or charcoal, and built in an approved fire enclosure. Those fires had been prohibited during the complete burn ban that had been in place since Aug. 5.

The stricter burn ban had some county residents confused about what exactly was allowed, county fire officials said.

Whatcom County Fire District 7 Assistant Chief Larry Hoffman said the district, which covers the Ferndale area, responded to 22 reports of outdoor fires the past month, more than normal for this time of year. A few of those calls were for grass or brush fires, but many were recreational fires.

For those calls, firefighters respond with an engine and educate people about the ban. Most people didn't realize their small fires were prohibited because they had been allowed under previous burn bans. Once they realize their fires were banned, most people were apologetic and put out the fires, Hoffman said.

"They're surprised that they're not allowed things that normally they would be under a burn ban, but you only need to watch the news at 5 to see why," he said. "We seem to be dominated by wildfires all over the state. We certainly don't want to be chasing those down over here, either."

The ban on campfires in state parks west of the Cascade Mountains has been lifted as well, and such state agencies as the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife also have eased fire restrictions on their lands west of the Cascades.

For more general information about outdoor burning, people can call the burn information line at 360-676-6934, or for specific questions people can call the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office at 360-676-6907.

Reach ZOE FRALEY at zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com or call 756-2803.

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