OLYMPIA – Wildfire season officially begins April 15, as specified by state law, and already the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has had 20 forest fires reported this year on lands protected by DNR.
DNR wants to remind people that the risk of wildfires can change rapidly during the spring when warmer, drier weather occurs with increasing frequency.
Wildfires can damage natural resources, destroy homes and threaten the safety of the public and the firefighters who protect forests and communities.
Last year, a total of 764 fires burned approximately 126,219 acres. In 2013, 94 percent of the wildfires that burned on DNR-protected lands were contained to less than 10 acres in size.
Overall, 70 percent of the wildfires on DNR-protected lands in 2013 were human-caused.
Dry and unhealthy forests continue to be a fire hazard and will for many years. It takes only one spark to start a fire that can have catastrophic results. Prevention of human-caused wildfires can reduce the risk of expensive, disruptive wildfires that damage habitat for birds, fish, and wildlife.
These fires destroy homes and threaten the safety of the public and firefighters who protect forests and communities at risk.
Washington’s summer fire rules
Washington’s “summer fire rules” are in effect April 15 through October 15. These rules apply to the 13 million acres of private and state forestlands protected from wildfire by DNR.
These regulations affect loggers, firewood cutters, land clearers, road builders, bulldozer operators, off-road motorcyclists and others. During fire season, people using motorized equipment in the woods must have approved spark arresters and follow fire safety precautions. In addition, those working in the woods must have fire prevention and extinguishing equipment in good working order at the job site and workers trained in proper use.
The rules are intended to prevent forest fires and to extinguish small fires before they spread.
Those same rules restrict cigarette smoking in forested areas to roads, gravels pits, or other clearings. They also prohibit lighting fireworks on forestland.
Stay connected during wildfire season
• DNR’s Fire Twitter: http://twitter.com/waDNR_fire
• DNR Fire Update: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/rp_fire_currentfireinfodailyupdates.pdf
• Incident Information System (InciWeb): http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Daily fire risk ratings available by phone and InternetIndustrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL) may change daily and classify varying levels of fire danger in different parts of the state. People who work in the woods must observe the IFPL.
More information is available from the following sources:
• DNR’s website at http://www.dnr.wa.gov. Click on Fire Information to review regional precaution levels, a map of current shutdown zones, and a copy of DNR’s Industrial Fire Precaution Level Bulletin.
• DNR’s toll-free business line at 1-800-527-3305 plays a message identifying daily industrial fire precaution levels, which are listed by geographical region. The hearing impaired can phone Telephone Device for the Deaf at 1-800-833-6388.
DNR’s wildfire mission
Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands.
DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department, with over 1,100 employees trained and available to be dispatched to fires as needed.
During fire season, this includes over 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 400 seasonal employees hired for firefighting duties. Additionally, Department of Corrections’ adult offenders and
Department of Social and Health Services-Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration juvenile offenders participate in the DNR correctional camps program. DNR also participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.