Planning an outdoor burn during the holiday weekend? Read this before lighting that pit

A helicopter drops water on the Stewart Mountain fire east of Bellingham, Monday, July 6, 2015.
A helicopter drops water on the Stewart Mountain fire east of Bellingham, Monday, July 6, 2015. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Despite two days of record heat last weekend, temperatures in general remain near normal for June and no areas of Whatcom County are under burn bans as Independence Day approaches.

Recreational fires are permitted with certain limits in Bellingham and Whatcom County. Land-clearing and debris fires are still allowed by permit in most unincorporated areas outside cities, said Mitch Nolze, an investigator with the county fire marshal’s office.

“Right now, it’s nice and cool and wet. We’ll see if it heats up,” Nolze said. “We’re looking at fuel moisture. We won’t have (a burn ban) unless something changes. All the fuel moisture levels are pretty high right now.”

Anything that’s on a stick that flies, you can’t have off of tribal reservation boundaries.

Mitch Nolze, Whatcom County fire investigator

Weather for the next several days will be mostly fair, according to a forecast from the National Weather Service in Seattle.

“It’s looking pretty dry,” said meteorologist Art Gabel. “It’ll be a little cooler temperature-wise, maybe high 60s. Typical early summer weather.”

Even so, Sandy Point will ban land-clearing and debris fire starting Wednesday, according to a notice from Whatcom County Fire District 17, which serves the area on a narrow spit of land along the western edge of Lummi Bay. Recreational fires less than 3 feet in diameter will be allowed in an approved container.

Whatcom County Fire District 5, serving Point Roberts, and Whatcom County Fire District 11, serving Lummi Island, both permit fires within certain limits – check their websites for details. For visitors to Lummi Island, a sign near the ferry landing lists burning limits when they are in effect and also lists the fire danger level, which currently is low.

0701 Burn Ban 1
Bellingham Fire Department Capt. Robert Gray looks up at the ladder on a ladder truck during a routine check of equipment and apparatuses on Saturday, July 1, at Bellingham Fire Department Station 5. When not responding to fire and aid calls the Bellingham Fire Department conducts training on weekdays and inventory and equipment maintenance on Saturdays. Evan Abell eabell@bhamherald.com

Bellingham prohibits open burning of yard debris. Recreational fires are permitted with certain limits, such as having the property owner’s permission. That restriction effectively bans fires along the Bellingham Bay waterfront from the Bellingham city limits north to Locust Beach, said Bill Hewett, assistant chief of the Bellingham Fire Department.

With the Independence Day holiday approaching, fire officials warn that Bellingham now bans sale and use of all fireworks in the city, except for a few fireworks labeled “novelty,” such as snakes and poppers.

Bellingham Fire recently produced a Facebook Live video, discussing fireworks with Nolze and other officials. He said all fireworks in Whatcom County must be purchased from state-licensed fireworks stands. Legal discharge times for such “safe and sane” fireworks are 6-11 p.m. July 3; 6 p.m.-midnight July 4; and 6-11 p.m. July 5.

Every year around the Fourth of July holiday, emergency departments see an influx of injuries caused by fireworks. Mayo Clinic experts say your hands, face and eyes are particularly vulnerable.

“Anything that’s on a stick that flies, you can’t have off tribal reservation boundaries.” Nolze said in the video.

Nolze encouraged Whatcom County residents to watch the professional fireworks events Tuesday night along the Bellingham and Blaine waterfronts. He cited several fires in recent years – including a wildfire that threatened homes on the north side of Lake Whatcom – that have been caused by negligent and illegal use of fireworks.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty