‘Inordinate number’ of fires human caused

By Marcy Stamper

Campfires and charcoal grills are prohibited everywhere in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, including in developed campgrounds, dispersed campsites and wilderness areas, as of Friday (Aug. 4). Worsening fire conditions and continued hot and dry weather prompted fire officers to impose the complete ban.

The new ban goes beyond what the U.S. Forest Service imposed July 31. Under the complete ban all fires — campfires, charcoal-briquette barbecues, tiki torches and other devices that use solid fuel — are prohibited. Pressurized liquid-gas stoves are allowed.

“Our high-elevation forest areas are rapidly drying and all fuels are now readily available to burn, as seen in recent fires,” said Matt Castle, deputy fire staff officer for operations. “Fortunately, so far this year, lightning has been minimal so we have not had many fires, yet. These restrictions will minimize the chance of new fire starts… and keep the public safe,” he said.

A total ban on campfires and charcoal barbecue grills already was in place at Pearrygin Lake and Alta Lake state parks.

Okanogan County has had a ban on outdoor burning since July 1.

The use of homemade alcohol ultralight stoves, wood-twig ultralight stoves, liquid-fuel lanterns and candles also is prohibited. For a complete list of approved and non-approved stoves, go to the forest website at https://go.usa.gov/xRPHa.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has banned all campfires and charcoal grills on its lands. Operating any type of motorized vehicle off developed roadways is prohibited, as is smoking near timber and grasslands.

This year, an “inordinate number” of fires in Washington are human caused — 89 percent of the 699 recorded this season, according to Traci Weaver, a communications specialist with the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service. In a normal year, the proportion of human-caused fires is closer to 50 or 60 percent, she said.

Escaped campfires are the leading human cause of wildfires on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Firewood cutting prohibited

Starting Sunday (Aug. 6), all firewood cutting was suspended on national forest land in and around the Methow Valley. Commercial as well as personal use of a power saw to cut wood is prohibited.

Until conditions change, no woodcutting permits will be sold by the Methow Valley and Tonasket ranger districts, nor by permit vendors in the area.

Use caution when smoking and do not discard cigarette butts on the ground or near combustible materials.

Drivers are cautioned not to drive on dry grass or vegetation. Heat from a vehicle can ignite a fire.

For additional information, go to www.fs.usda.gov/okawen, or call the forest headquarters at (509) 664-9200.

Extreme fire danger = maximum restrictions

• Campfires banned everywhere – in national forest campgrounds, wilderness areas, state parks, and county and state lands

• Barbecue grills banned in all the same places

• Only pressurized liquid-gas stoves are permitted

• Firewood cutting banned in the national forest

• Do not drive onto dry vegetation

• Do not smoke near timber or dry vegetation