CENTRALIA — Ahead of warmer weather forecasted for next week, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources is warning residents to make sure their campfires and burn piles are fully extinguished before abandoning them.
The DNR 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,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who oversees the DNR and the state’s wildfire fighting force. “Checking your burn piles and keeping a hose nearby when burning yard debris, and putting out your campfires completely out before walking away are easy ways to keep your neighbors safe as the weather gets warmer.”
According to a press release from the DNR, this time of year is a deceptively risky time for wildfires, as the weather is heating up before the plants are fully green. Dead grass along with last fall’s leaf litter can dry out rapidly, allowing for fast spreading brush fires.
This week is slated to bring warmer and drier temperatures that could climb past 70 degrees.
The best way to be certain that a burn pile is fully extinguished, DNR says, is to dig into the ash with a shovel and then hold your hand over the ash to feel if there is warmth.
It is common for rain to create a cap over the ash, with the heat remaining inside. Winds can then weaken the cap and allow reignition. Campfires should be doused with water and stirred until all coals are completely extinguished and cool to the touch.
Call 1-800-323-BURN or go to fortress.wa.gov/dnr/protection/firedanger to find your county’s rules and the fire danger.
The following are a list of Washington state burn laws from the DNR:
- 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.