Celebrate independence from wildfires this Fourth of July

Summer temps heighten wildfire danger

OLYMPIA – With the arrival of summer temperatures and the Fourth of July holiday, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging people to be cautious of rising fire danger. Those celebrating should be especially careful with fireworks and check local restrictions on fireworks and campfires.

Fireworks started 240 fires in Washington last year. So far in 2017, DNR firefighters have responded to 127 wildfires, including the fires that prompted evacuations outside of Wenatchee and Yakima this week.

“The Fourth of July is America’s time to celebrate our nation and the freedoms we all enjoy. But with great freedom comes great responsibility, so I urge everyone to be extra careful during this great holiday weekend,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “An escaped campfire or a carelessly discharged firework can destroy homes, property and lives. I encourage everyone to join with their friends and neighbors and attend a professional community fireworks display.”

Fireworks and incendiary devices, such as exploding targets, sky lanterns, or tracer ammunition, are banned on all DNR-protected forestlands.

Danger increases on weekends and holidays

DNR records show wildfires occur more on weekend and holiday afternoons, when more people visit DNR-protected lands. Unattended campfires, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and dragging tow chains behind vehicles also increase the risk of wildfire during the long holiday weekend.

The 2016 wildfire season burned 305,153 acres and cost Washington taxpayers more than $40 million. Those who start wildfires can be held responsible for suppression costs.

To avoid accidental wildfires, practice these prevention tips:

Camping and recreating

·         Only build campfires where authorized and when not under a burn ban; put them completely out before leaving camp, even for a few minutes; use plenty of water and stir until the coals are cold to the touch.

·         Dispose of lit smoking materials appropriately.

·         Fireworks, incendiary ammunition and exploding targets start fires and are illegal to use or discharge on public lands, including all state forests.

Vehicles and Towing

·         Be sure chains and other metal parts aren’t dragging from your vehicle or trailer. They can throw sparks and start fires.

·         Make sure all off-road vehicles have a properly functioning and approved spark arrester.

·         Be careful driving through or parking on dry grass or brush. Hot exhaust pipes can start the grass on fire. You may not even notice the fire until it’s too late.

·         Check tire pressure and condition. Driving on an exposed wheel rim can cause sparks.

·         Have brakes serviced regularly to prevent brake pads wearing too thin; metal on metal can spark or drop pieces of hot brake pad.

Firewise Preparedness

For those who decide to stay home and avoid the crowds over the three-day weekend, now is a good time to prepare for wildfire. For tips to help homes better survive wildfire, go to www.firewise.org.

Outdoor burning

In Washington, outdoor burning is a leading cause of wildfire ignition. Be aware of shifting winds, especially if burning outdoors.

Daily updates on burn restrictions are available at 1-800-323-BURN or on DNR’s website at www.dnr.wa.gov/OutdoorBurning.

Stay connected during wildfire season

·         DNR’s Fire Twitter: http://twitter.com/waDNR_fire

·         Incident Information System (InciWeb): http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

Anyone who spots a wildfire should call 911 as soon as possible to report it.

DNR’s wildfire mission

Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department and participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.