Most outdoor burning prohibited; other agencies’ rules vary
The Okanogan County commissioners have banned all outdoor burning — and that includes barbecuing over charcoal briquettes. The ban went into effect at midnight on Tuesday (June 25).
Finding that “the potential for large and catastrophic fires exists that may be a threat to life and cause damage or destruction to homes, businesses, orchards/farmlands and natural resources,” the commissioners signed their annual resolution on June 24.
Under the ban, agricultural burning and outdoor burning of yard waste are prohibited. The use of gas- or propane-fired barbecues is allowed, but charcoal barbecues are banned. Fireworks are prohibited throughout the county on both public and private land.
The ban applies in all three Fire Danger Rating Areas (FDRAs) in the county — Methow Highlands, Valley Floors, and Okanogan Highlands. “Dry summer weather conditions provide for high fire conditions in Okanogan County,” according to the resolution.
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.
Up-to-date information and a map of the areas will be available on the Okanogan County Emergency Management website at www.okanogandem.org.
The burn ban will continue until the commissioners rescind it.
Land in the county is managed by different agencies, and all set their own burn bans, often on different schedules.
Fire risk in the Methow FDRA is “high,” meaning it is one of the areas with the highest risk of wildfire in the state, according to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
DNR banned all burning of vegetation in the Methow FDRA earlier this month. Last week, DNR expanded the restriction, banning all campfires — even in DNR campgrounds — in Okanogan County.
There are no campfire restrictions at Pearrygin Lake and Alta Lake state parks. Those typically go into effect in mid-July, according to park staff.
Also last week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) banned fires on all its lands in the county, which are scattered throughout the Methow and the Okanogan valleys.
BLM warned that a vehicle can start a fire when metal throws sparks, from dragging a tow chain or from worn brake pads. Underinflated tires can cause contact between the wheel rim and roadway. Driving a car with a hot engine and hot exhaust onto grass also poses a high risk of igniting a fire.
The Methow Valley Ranger District increased fire danger from “moderate” to “high” last week. Campfires are still allowed in the ranger district and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, except in wilderness areas, where campfire restrictions are always in effect.
Although campfires are not prohibited, U.S. Forest Service fire officials are always 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.
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 rock fire ring. 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.
Vehicles can start fires
When it’s this hot and dry, even your car or truck can start a wildfire. Follow these precautions to avoid a disaster:
• Don’t drive or park on grass — hot parts under a vehicle can ignite a fire.
• Make sure tow chains and other metal parts don’t drag on the pavement.
• Keep tires properly inflated — metal wheel rims will spark if they contact the pavement.
• Replace brake pads — rubbing metal from severely worn brake pads can throw sparks.
• Keep your catalytic converter and exhaust systems in good working order. They can ignite dry fuels on contact.
• Make sure you have a spark arrestor on your dirt bike or off-road vehicle.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Land Management