High fire risk expected to continue on Peninsula

Dry conditions predicted at least through September

Full burn bans are in effect on the North Olympic Peninsula in the face of a high wildfire risk in both Clallam and Jefferson counties that began early in the season and isn’t likely to dissipate until September or even into October.

Clallam County issued a full burn ban on Friday. Jefferson County had issued a full ban on June 30.

The National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) rates the significant wildfire potential as above normal for July and predicts it will remain that high in August and September for most of Washington state into Oregon.

October’s forecast is that much of the state will move back into normal with the exception of Western Washington down the coast into Oregon.

The federal NICC is the tool local fire departments use to predict conditions and hire extra personnel and dispatch staff to be prepared if conditions warrant, according to Chief Bret Black of the East Jefferson Fire District.

The Peninsula is “very dried out” and is likely to become more so before autumn rains lower the fire risk, he said Sunday.

“It’s a high fire risk across the Peninsula,” Black said.

Last year, the area had one red flag warning, a notice issued by the National Weather Service when warm temperatures, low humidity and strong winds are expected to combine to raise fire danger.

“It’s possible with this elevated risk, we will see more than one red flag warning” this season, Black said.

“The Fourth of July wasn’t the end of it,” he said. “It’s just the beginning.”

Proactive measures such as burn restrictions can make a difference in lessening risk, Black pointed out, a sentiment also expressed in a press release issued by Jefferson County Fire Marshal Phil Cecere on Friday.

Cecere reported that after measures taken by area fire authorities — including a ban on fireworks and a full burn ban put into place on June 30 — there were no fires related to fireworks reported during the Fourth of July holiday period.

“We would like to express our gratitude to the residents and visitors of Jefferson County for their cooperation and support in adhering to the fireworks ban,” Cecere said in the release.

“Your commitment to fire safety has played a vital role in ensuring the well-being of our community and minimizing potential risks.”

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office did receive fireworks complaints. Detective Sgt. Brett Anglin reported at least 46 complaints during the Fourth.

In Clallam County, Peninsula Communications dispatchers reported receiving several calls about fires — not necessarily related to fireworks — during the holiday period.

Among them was a brush fire that burned 39 acres near Bogachiel Way in Forks, prompted evacuations of homes on Bogachiel Way and led to the cancellation of a demolition derby and public fireworks.

By Friday, that fire was well along into being mopped up, according to the final report from the state Department of Natural Resources, which expected it to be in “patrol status” only by Sunday.

The cause of the fire remained undetermined on Sunday.

All outdoor burning — including campfires, bonfires, briquette barbecues, residential yard debris cleanup, trash disposal, land clearing, weed abatement and agricultural burning activity — is restricted on the Peninsula.

Propane/gas appliances are permitted provided the use is over a non-flammable surface and at least 5 feet from flammable vegetation. The exception to this modification is those campgrounds within the Olympic National Park.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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