Jefferson County adopts summer fire regulations

New rules automatically raise fire danger July through September

PORT TOWNSEND — A summer burn ban will automatically go into effect between July 1 and Sept. 30 each year in Jefferson County following updates to the county’s fire danger regulations.

The ban affects burning for landscaping and clearing purposes but does not impact recreational fires on private property, including campfires, charcoal grills and other small flames.

Updates to the county’s burn regulations were unanimously approved by the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners, which included making the July-to-September ban recurring. It also changed the county’s fire danger rating system and set new enforcement tools for county authorities on Monday.

“That’s something that we would normally come to the board with,” Phil Cecere, building official fire marshal for the county, said of the summer burn ban. “This makes it a little more seamless.”

The update also changed the county’s fire danger rating system to match that of the National Fire Danger Rating System used by the federal government, a color-coded 1-5 scale ranging from low to extreme.

On Monday, Jefferson County’s fire danger rating was “low.”

Each level comes with restriction built in that automatically take effect when the rating is changed. Ratings are set by the fire marshal in consultation with local fire officials.

Starting July 1 every year, the county’s rating automatically will be raised to level 2, “moderate,” which prohibits open flame devices and burning brush piles.

“Most folks this won’t affect other than brush burns,” Cecere said, noting that exemptions are available for commercial and agricultural purposes.

The updated regulations also set penalties for violating the burn rules as either a misdemeanor with a fine of no more than $1,000 or a civil infraction with a fine $1,000 for the first violation and $2,000 for any subsequent violations.

Enforcement will be managed by Cecere in conjunction with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, but Cecere said county officials would prioritize public education and voluntary compliance.

“Public awareness is to be used first before an infraction,” Cecere said.

The new regulations also provide a means to challenge infractions through the Hearing Examiner’s office.

The moderate designation does not put any additional restrictions on fireworks, which are only allowed during certain hours around the New Year and Fourth of July holidays. The next level up, however, “high,” does prohibit the sale and discharge of fireworks.

The process for applying for a permit for a public display of fireworks remains unchanged, Cecere said.

The regulations only apply to areas of unincorporated Jefferson County and not to state, federal or tribal lands in the county.

Fire forecasts from the National Interagency Coordination Center show elevated risks of wildfire for Western Washington, including Clallam and Jefferson counties, beginning in July and continuing through September.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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