By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – For those who were worried a week ago about the prospect of Fourth of July fireworks danger in light of the unusually parched state of grasses, shrubs, trees and other plant life, the outlook has not gotten any better.
The mercury hit 95 degrees in Chehalis today, and temperatures will continue to be well above normal through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
The combination of heat, low humidity levels and dry vegetation with its risk for potential wildfires prompted even the Gifford Pinchot National Forest at mid-week to issue restrictions on campfires.
The lowlands have already seen outdoor burn bans put into place, as well as bans on campfires in state parks.
Early this week, as the governor and the commissioner of public lands strongly urged people not to use fireworks this year, the Lewis County Fire Chiefs Association had not taken a position on the matter.
However, the group’s president Gregg Peterson, who is chief of Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue, said he was very concerned going into the Fourth of July weekend.
“Have a garden hose, shovel and water handy for extinguishing any fire,” Peterson said. “We’re probably going to be very busy, so, any fire that starts, we may no get there right away.”
Also on Wednesday, the Lewis County Board of Commissioners and the county Fire Marshal’s Office issued a statement asking citizens to refrain from personal discharge of all fireworks this year, and to celebrate in other ways, including partaking in professional public fireworks displays instead.
They indicated in a news release they heard the request from some members of the public to ban them, but wouldn’t have been able to do so for this holiday, even if they’d have taken immediate action.
“The current state law leaves this office with only the option to ask for assistance from the citizens to prevent fireworks related tragedy,” they wrote in the joint news release.
Fireworks are never allowed in the national forests in the Pacific Northwest.
Gifford Pinchot and Mount Hood National Forests’ Fire Management Staff Officer Deb Roy gave the details for campers and visitors.
Open campfires, including charcoal briquettes, cooking fires and warming fires are prohibited until further notice, according to Roy. Wood or charcoal fires are only allowed in developed campgrounds, picnic areas and group campgrounds that have established metal fire pits or rings, Roy stated in a news release.
Even smoking in the Gifford Pinchot is allowed only within enclosed vehicles, buildings and developed recreation sites. Violators can be fined up to $5,000 and/ or imprisoned up to six months in jail.
The state fire marshal’s office has been issuing news releases almost daily for more than a week, advising on various safety concerns involving the use of fireworks.
Yesterday, they focused on the lingering risk after the sparklers, cones and whatever else have sputtered out.
State Fire Marshal Charles M. Duffy reminds residents that used fireworks can leave behind a great deal of debris.
Some extra attention during the disposal of what’s left behind can help reduce the likelihood of unwanted fire or injury.
Here’s what Duffy says:
• Clean up all fireworks debris.
• Submerge used fireworks in a bucket of water for fifteen minutes to ensure they are cooled down and there are no smoldering embers that can start a fire.
• Double wrap the soaked fireworks in plastic bags for disposal in your household trash.
• It is best to dump the remaining water on the ground, selecting an area where it will not produce surface runoff into the municipal water system.
• Do not put used fireworks that have not been soaked into a paper or plastic bag, as this could lead to a fire starting within the bag.
• Return to your fireworks discharge area the next morning to clean up any remaining firework debris – things can be easily overlooked in the dark.