Local fire danger not letting up

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 at 8:21 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Gifford Pinchot National Forest announced yesterday it is banning not only campfires, but also smoking throughout the forest, effective immediately.

Restrictions will remain in place until there is significant moisture to lower the fire danger.

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The restrictions apply also to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument area.

The ban includes any stove fires including briquette fires. Smoking is not prohibited within an enclosed vehicle or building.

At the same time, the state Department of Natural Resources expanded its outdoor burn ban to include the entire state, meaning no campfires in any state parks or any land protected by DNR.

“Wildfire and smoke is affecting every community around the state as we see the hot, dry summer take its toll on our forests,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz stated in a press release. “Without any relief from this weather in the foreseeable future and with our firefighters spread across the Northwest, we can no longer allow outdoor burning anywhere in Washington.”

Anyone caught violating the burn ban can face fines.

On Monday, Labor Day, DNR firefighters responded to 21 new fire starts.

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

Lewis County enacted a total outdoor burn ban at the beginning of August.

At its peak, there were 200 personnel battling a wildfire in Rochester that began a little over two weeks ago and consumed 384 acres, two residences, a historical home and its barn as well as a business, outbuildings, heavy equipment and vehicles, with most of the fire burning through the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. West Thurston Regional Fire Authority announced Thursday the fire was finally out.

A red flag warning about critical fire weather is in place until 11 p.m. tomorrow in Pacific County as well as the Pe Ell area and the westernmost strip of Lewis County, down through Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties and also Skamania County.

Expected lightning and especially dry fuels are the reason.

Smoke from wildfires across the region will continue to linger over Western Washington through at least Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

An air quality alert remains in place for all of Western Washington through mid-day tomorrow.

“Children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory illnesses are most at risk of serious health effects,” NWS states in its alert. “These groups should limit or avoid spending time outdoors.”

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