By Marcy Stamper
Finding that the county “is experiencing weather conditions that are contributing to unusual fire conditions,” the Okanogan County commissioners have signed their annual resolution banning all outdoor burning. The current conditions increase the potential for large, catastrophic fires, according to the resolution signed June 19. The ban goes into effect on Sunday (July 1).
Under the ban, agricultural burning and outdoor burning of yard waste are prohibited. The use of gas- or charcoal-fired barbecues is allowed. Fireworks are prohibited throughout the county on both public and private land.
An exception to the burn ban is in orchards that have been afflicted by fire-blight bacteria. People may obtain a special permit to burn infected trees, which requires consultation with the county’s pest-control agent, plus strict provisions to control the fire.
The burn ban will continue until the commissioners rescind it.
The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) declared a “moderate” fire danger in the county on June 15 and has banned all burning on DNR lands.
Campfires are allowed in approved, designated DNR campgrounds only. Individual campgrounds may prohibit campfires, so people are advised to check with the campground host before lighting a fire.
Fireworks and incendiary devices are illegal on all lands protected by DNR.
Campfires are currently allowed in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Methow Valley Ranger District, except in wilderness areas, where campfire restrictions are always in effect.
Although campfires are not prohibited, U.S. Forest Service fire officials are nevertheless concerned about the risk of wildfire. Firefighters extinguish one or two abandoned campfires almost every weekend, according to the Forest Service.
Fireworks are illegal in the national forest year-round. There are penalties of up to $5,000, or six months in jail, for fireworks possession in the forest.
There are no campfire restrictions at Pearrygin Lake and Alta Lake state parks.
People have the responsibility to ensure their campfire is completely out and cold to the touch before they leave. Campfires must be built in a fire ring made out of rocks. All vegetation must be cleared from the area, and the fire should not be built below low-hanging tree branches. Campers should have water and a shovel nearby.
To effectively put out a campfire, drown it with water and stir the embers to make sure everything is wet. Feel the coals and embers with your hands — they should be cool to the touch. When you think you are done, take an extra minute and add more water.
Because conditions can change quickly, land managers may impose burn bans on short notice. The county commissioners strongly encourage people to call DNR’s burn information line at 1-800-323-2876 or the Methow Valley Ranger District at 996-4003 for current conditions and restrictions.