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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Dec. 5, 2023

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As fire danger ebbs, burn ban lifted

By , Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

Clark County has lifted its ban on outdoor burning, effective today, as recent rain and cooler weather have eased fire danger across the region.

The change means land-clearing fires will be allowed. The county’s ban on recreational fires was lifted earlier this month. But people still need to act responsibly even with the arrival of fall, said Richard Martin, the county’s assistant fire marshal.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s OK to go out and be reckless with fire,” Martin said. “It’s still dry. It’s still fire season.”

Residents still must follow local burning regulations and permit requirements, according to the county. Campfires are allowed in fire pits at designated campgrounds such as those found in local and state parks. At home, people should create a defensible space around their home to prevent fire damage, according to the county.

September largely wound down a long and destructive fire season in the drought-afflicted Northwest. More than 1 million acres of land burned in Washington alone, which is the most in state history, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Much of the damage occurred in North Central Washington, where three firefighters died in August battling the massive Okanogan Complex fire.

The estimated cost of battling wildfires in Washington this year was about $250 million across all jurisdictions, said DNR spokeswoman Janet Pearce. That kind of cost creates a big strain, both in terms of budgets and crews, she said.

“Resources became an issue again this year, because we were stretched thin,” Pearce said.

What’s more, officials are bracing for extreme conditions to become the norm, not the exception. Fire seasons are getting longer and more intense, she said.

Locally, fire crews in Clark County faced difficult conditions of their own.

“It has been one of the more active fire seasons in recent history,” Martin said.

After the hottest summer on record in many places, including Vancouver, temperatures have cooled considerably in recent weeks. Highs are expected to land in the lower 70s for the next several days — close to normal for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.

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