No doubt all this beautiful sunshine is good for the soul, but it has some Washingtonians concerned. The Department of Natural Resources has already responded to over 50 fires caused by escaped debris burns. “Last year, we experienced one of the most devastating wildfire years in our state’s history,” says Commissioner of Public Lands, Hillary Franz. She oversees the DNR and the state’s wildfire fighting force. “Checking your burn piles and keeping a hose nearby when burning yard debris or debris piles are easy ways to keep your neighbor safe as the weather gets warmer.
With potential record-setting heat this coming weekend, fire safety experts are concerned that people may make an early start to camping and camp fires. They’re asking that you double check recreational camp fires to make sure they’re extinguished.
The best way to be certain a burn pile fully extinguished is to dig into the ash and feel the area with the back of your hand to make sure there is no heat left. It is common for rain to create a cap over the ash, with heat remaining inside. Winds can weaken the cap and allow the pile to reignite. Campfires should be doused with water and stirred until all coals are completely extinguished and is cool to the touch.
Here are some other fire safety precautions from the DNR:
- Find out if a permit is needed and follow it. Call 1-800-323-BURN or go to fortress.wa.gov/dnr/protection/firedanger to find your county’s rules and the fire danger.
- Make sure there is a firebreak, cleared of all flammable material, for at least 5 feet around your fire.
- Only burn one pile at a time. Keep all fires at least 50 feet away from structures and 500 feet away from forest slash.
- Never light when the wind is blowing from the east or when it is strong enough to sway trees, extend flags, or cause rough waves on the water.
- Make sure someone stays with the fire until it is completely out. Keep a shovel and a connected water hose, or at least five gallons of water, on hand at all times.
- Extinguish the fire if smoke or ash becomes a nuisance for nearby residents.
- Burn only natural vegetation from the site. Never burn rubber, plastic, asphalt, garbage, dead animals, petroleum products, paint or other materials that emit dense smoke or create offensive odors.
A misdemeanor citation will be issued for people who do not follow the rules and conditions of their burn permits. If proven negligent, the offender will be billed for the fire suppression costs.