Fire district proposes changes to burn ban

Policy could be different throughout county

PORT TOWNSEND — East Jefferson Fire and Rescue proposed burn ban policy changes to the Jefferson County Commissioners that could go into effect in summer 2023.

EJFR, in consultation with the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney, Jefferson County Department of Community Development, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and other county fire districts, proposed burning restrictions rather than all-out bans as part of a new policy.

“The EJFR district and the Fire Marshal propose fire restrictions after comprehensively reviewing fire alert levels and their associated colors to protect the general public’s welfare and ensure clarity in messaging especially with regard to wildland fires,” Fire Marshal Brent Butler said in meeting documents. “As proposed, certain types of fire burning activities would be prohibited at each fire alert level.”

The levels are similar to those that have been used by the state Department of Natural Resources and Washington State Parks with numbers and colors coordinating the fire threat level.

EJFR is proposing this method, saying it recognizes that the “one-size-fits-all approach” does not work for the climate of Jefferson County, where some areas get more rainfall than others, thus lowering the fire threat level.

“Regional climate variation suggests that a ‘one shoe fits all approach’ may not be advisable given Jefferson County’s microclimates with 110 inches of precipitation yearly in the west end versus 23 inches yearly on the Quimper Peninsula,” Butler said.

In addition, EJFR proposed the county reevaluate the fireworks policy if the burn ban policy is adopted.

“Fireworks regulations typically require a one-year waiting period between the adoption of an ordinance and the implementation of the ordinance’s full force and effect, meaning any fireworks-related regulations added to the municipal code could not take effect for 365 days,” Butler said. “Nonetheless, there are areas where the (Board of Jefferson County Commissioners) has broad latitude to enact fire-related regulations that do not require this delay.”

EJFR requested the county commissioners direct staff to work with them to develop a new ordinance that would replace the current ordinance with this proposed ordinance, similar to that of DNR and State Parks, that outlines the fire danger levels and offers transparency, predictability and enforcement of those restrictions.

This new ordinance will later be brought to the commissioners for adoption and codification.

In the meantime, EJFR is recommending the current system remain in place for this coming fire season and for the county to plan on a resolution adopting a burn ban.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]

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