By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Washington State Parks announced today that campfires in all state parks will be prohibited until further notice to help prevent human-caused wildfires during the hot, dry season.
The prohibition complies with the announcement Monday by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which notified the public of a ban on all outdoor burning on lands protected by DNR, through Sept. 30. That agency has fire protection responsibility for all but a few state parks.
Prohibiting open fires and campfires in all state parks is intended to minimize public confusion and cooperate in DNR's effort to prevent wildfires.
DNR has said that significant demands are being placed upon fire suppression resources from regional and statewide firefighting efforts.
Campers in state parks will be allowed to use devices that allow for control of combustion, including:
— Propane and liquid gas stoves appropriate for camping and backcountry use.
— Propane barbecue devices that do not use solid briquettes.
— Propane or pressurized white gas warming devices that have a shield or base.
— Lava rocks or lava logs may be used in propane grills and barbecues.
— Solid fuel citronella or other candles in a metal bucket or glass container.
The warning "for scattered to abundant lightning" originally was expected to last through 5 p.m. today, the National Weather Service in Seattle said this afternoon.
The Weather Service warning stressed the mountains above Quilcene and Brinnon reaching past Forks and northwest toward Clallam Bay-Sekiu.
Olympic National Park staff were working to monitor this afternoon a single reported fire in the Appleton Pass area of the park that was likely caused by lightning but was not high risk, a park spokeswoman said.
Park staff received a single report of smoke in the high backcountry of the Appleton Pass area, between the Sol Duc and Elwha river drainages, this morning, park spokeswoman Rainey McKenna said.
Park staff have limited information on the fire, she said, but think it’s relatively small based on the amount of smoke.
“It’s in a high remote location of the park, so it’s not a high-risk fire,” McKenna said.
“We’re not worried about it endangering any surrounding communities or infrastructure."
Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said park staff are hoping in the next few days to fly over the area in a plane learn more about the fire, when weather permits.
Earlier today, park staff had discovered and put out a 5-foot-by-5-foot brush fire along Hurricane Ridge Road between Mileposts 13 and 14, McKenna said.
This small fire, about a quarter-mile above the road, also was likely caused by lightning, McKenna said.
A wildfire near Skokomish in Mason County has grown to nearly 300 acres, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The fire is on the edge of Olympic National Forest.
A red-flag warning means that critical weather conditions exist or are expected to develop in the near future.
The conditions can be caused by a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures.
Thunderstorms were still expected to be widespread in the region today, said Johnny Burg, a Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle.
“There could be some overnight, but Sequim and Port Angeles will likely get them Tuesday during the day,” Burg told the Peninsula Daily News on Monday.
The red-flag warning area covers most of Washington and Oregon and a large portion of Northern California.
“Lightning in dry fuels can cause multiple fire starts. Given the recent stretch of hot and dry conditions, any fires that develop could spread rapidly,” the Weather Service said in a statement accompanying the red-flag warning.
Clallam County expanded its burn ban Monday to prohibit all recreational fires, except within Olympic National Park and other controlled campgrounds.
Sheila Roark Miller, Clallam community development director who also serves as county fire marshal, said any illegal burning will result in property owner liability for all fire-suppression costs, fines and fees, including prosecution.
Residents also are urged to maintain a 30-foot defensible space around structures.
In Jefferson County, a burn ban for trash or other open fires has been in effect since July 1.
Recreational fires also are banned, at least today, said Bill Beezley, spokesman for East Jefferson Fire-Rescue. The situation will be evaluated daily, he said.
Olympic National Park
As of Monday, there were no special fire restrictions in Olympic National Park.
Campfires inside designated fire rings at established campgrounds will continue to be allowed in the park.
If conditions continue to be dry, restrictions may be added later this week, said McKenna.
The state Department of Natural Resources expanded its existing burn ban Monday to include all open-flame sources on all DNR lands.
The DNR burn ban will remain in place through Sept. 30.
All outdoor burning on DNR-protected lands is prohibited under the ban, including recreational fires in campgrounds or anywhere on DNR lands.
Fireworks and incendiary devices, such as exploding targets, sky lanterns, or tracer ammunition, are illegal, the agency said in a statement Monday.
Charcoal briquettes also are not allowed. The use of gas or propane barbecues and self-contained stoves are allowed.
Olympic National Forest
There were no current burn bans in Olympic National Forest as of Monday, said Lisa Romano, spokeswoman.
“The Forest Service is not yet considering bans or restrictions yet,” she said.
However, changing conditions may lead to restrictions or bans later, Romano said.
Sequim-based Clallam County Fire District No. 3 responded to three small brush fires over the weekend.
District 3 spokesman Patrick Young said the fires were symptomatic of increasing wildfire danger.
All three fires were quickly contained and extinguished by firefighters, Young said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.