SAFETY: Warmer, dryer conditions increase the chance of wildfires

In hopes of reducing the number holiday weekend wildfires, fire officials are reminding people to take proper precautions to prevent a fire from starting.

Agencies including the state Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service have issued reminders as the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches.

Last year, fireworks caused 27 wildfires on the public and private lands for which the state agency is responsible. Overall in 2013, there were 1,527 wildfires in Washington, burning more than 152,600 acres. The largest fire in the state was the Colockum Tarps, which started July 27, 2013. The human-caused fire burned almost 80,200 acres and cost an estimated $11 million to contain.

Because the weather has warmed up, vegetation is quickly drying out, making it easy for fires to start and spread quickly.

Records maintained by the natural resources agency show wildfires occur more often on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, when more people visit DNR-protected lands. Unattended campfires, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and reckless outdoor burning also boost the Fourth of July weekend’s forest fire potential, according to a department news release.

Fireworks and incendiary devices, such as exploding targets, are prohibited year-round on land managed by the department. For all other forestlands in the state, incendiary devices are prohibited from April 15-Oct. 15, regardless of who owns or manages the forestland.

The Forest Service also prohibits the use or possession of fireworks on any national forest lands.

“We ask all visitors to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to be extra careful with anything that could start a fire,” Deb Roy, Gifford Pinchot National Forest fire staff officer, said in a news release.

While campfires in designated areas are currently allowed on the national forest, some state and local departments are imposing fire restrictions.

Fire safety tips

 • Do not park any vehicles in dry, grassy areas as the heat from exhaust systems can ignite the dry grass.

 • Never leave a campfire unattended.

 • Be sure your campfire is completely out before leaving the area. Pour water on all embers until the hissing sound stops. Use a shovel to mix the embers and ash. Make sure everything is wet and cold to the touch. If you do not have water, or enough, use dirt.

 • Be sure recreational vehicles have operating spark arresters.

Stay informed

Department of Natural Resource’s fire Twitter: twitter.com/waDNR_fire.

DNR fire update: dnr.wa.gov/Publications/rp_fire_currentfireinfodailyupdates.pdf.

Incident Information System: inciweb.nwcg.gov.

More campfire safety information: smokeybear.com.