Jefferson and Clallam counties both will initiate burn bans as fire season arrives on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Jefferson County’s burn ban went into effect Sunday and will be lifted Sept. 30. Clallam County’s burn ban will not go into effect until July 1 provided that fire conditions do not increase.
Jefferson County’s ban was put in place due to the combination of above-average temperatures, lack of significant precipitation and an earlier-than-normal dry season, East Jefferson Fire Rescue said in a press release.
The burning restrictions are specific to the county’s land clearing and outdoor burning activities. At this time, it does not impact recreational fires such as outdoor ovens, barbecues and fire pits.
The Board of Jefferson County Commissioners approved a resolution on a burn ban ordinance on Monday that would allow local fire districts to impose outdoor and recreational burn bans even if the state Department of Natural Resources has not imposed similar bans in its jurisdictional areas in the county.
“Should the DNR issue guidance banning recreational fires on all forestlands, Jefferson County shall follow suit,” the ordinance says. “However, after the Effective Date, the Fire Marshal, after consultation with the County Fire Chiefs and in consideration of the current atmospheric and field conditions, may declare a ban on all open outdoor burning, including recreational fires in a particular Fire District or in all of unincorporated Jefferson County.”
On several occasions when burn bans have been activated in Jefferson County, regional fire chiefs have recommended that the county adopt its own burn ban ordinance, which can be enacted at times of high risk of fire danger when DNR and other land management entities do not have active bans or restrictions.
“Unlike past years, DNR did not prohibit open fires. That left a gap in protection for county forestland, which, for fire purposes, is jointly managed by DNR and the fire districts,” Jefferson County Administrator Mike McCauley said. “The fire chiefs would like this year’s resolution to address that gap.”
The resolution passed unanimously among the three commissioners.
DNR has increased the fire danger in its jurisdictions from low to moderate but has not announced any burn bans or restrictions for the North Olympic region.
Clallam County’s ban would be in place from July 1 through Oct. 1 and would specifically ban residential burning, which includes the burning of yard waste using propane-powered weed burners.
“Extreme care needs to be exercised when burning yard waste,” Clallam County Fire District 3 Battalion Chief Chris Turner said.
Clallam County Fire District 3 said in a press release Friday that its wildland crews are drilling constantly to be ready for a fire.
“As the weather warms up, the Wildland Fire team has been gearing up, ready for an emergency we all hope never comes,” Turner said.
Most of the recent fires in Clallam County have been small brush fires, but as the summer gets hotter and drier, the potential for much larger and more destructive fires grows.
“The combination of dry vegetation, a bit of wind and an ignition source, like an improperly extinguished cigarette, can quickly result in a large area on fire,” Turner said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.