The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has recently experienced several fires from escaped debris burn piles and campfires.
“We ask the public to please be careful when having a campfire. Please be sure that the fire is out completely before leaving it unattended. Also, please check any burn piles that you have burned since fall,” said Bob Johnson, Assistant Region Manager for Wildfire, DNR Pacific Cascade Region. “Escaped debris burn piles are one of the leading causes of wildfires.”
According to the National Interagency Coordination Center Predictive Services, Southwest Washington has only received 75 percent of its normal precipitation since October, and January was exceptionally dry. The summer is predicted to be warmer than normal and could be drier than normal and may not get the normal spring rains.
The best way to be sure a burn pile is out is to dig into the ash and feel the area with the back of your hand to make sure there is no heat left. It is common for rain to create a cap over the ash, with heat remaining inside. Winds can weaken the cap and allow the pile to reignite.
Fire safety precautions
DNR recommends following the safety precautions below when burning debris:
Find out if a permit is needed and follow it. Call 1-800-323-BURN or go to fortress.wa.gov/dnr/protection/firedanger to find your county’s rules and the fire danger.
Make sure there is a firebreak, cleared of all flammable material, for at least 5 feet around your fire.
Only burn one pile at a time. Keep all fires at least 50 feet away from structures and 500 feet away from forest slash.
Never light when the wind is blowing from the east or when it is strong enough to sway trees, extend flags, or cause rough waves on the water.
Make sure someone stays with the fire until it is completely out. Keep a shovel and a connected water hose, or at least five gallons of water, on hand at all times.
Extinguish the fire if smoke or ash becomes a nuisance for nearby residents.
Burn only natural vegetation from the site. Never burn rubber, plastic, asphalt, garbage, dead animals, petroleum products, paint or other materials that emit dense smoke or create offensive odors.
A misdemeanor citation will be issued for people who do not follow the rules and conditions of their burn permits. If proven negligent, the offender will be billed for the fire suppression costs.