Don’t risk starting a wildfire

September 28, 2012 

Living in the lush and often-rainy South Sound, it’s hard to imagine the unusually dry conditions in Central Washington, where several wildfires continue to burn.

That potential lack of awareness makes it all the more dangerous as people head into the Cascades for autumn hikes, hunting and other outdoor activities.

The Department of Natural Resources says that human carelessness caused more than two-thirds of this season’s 992 wildfires. That sad statistic is even worse considering the tragedy and human suffering the fires have caused.

The fires have burned through 81,000 acres in Washington alone, and more than 1.35 million acres across the Northwest. The Table Mountain fire remains mostly uncontained and only a third of the network of wildfires in the Wenatchee area is contained.

This is causing serious air quality problems, which the Department of Ecology predicts will worsen as the week progresses. That’s bad news for people with conditions that make them sensitive to air quality issues.

A statewide burn ban remains in effect at least through Sept. 30 on DNR-protected lands, but anyone going outdoors should be careful everywhere.

With the variety of self-contained gas and propane stoves available, there is no reason to start a campfire with the fire danger so high. The burn ban allows fires in approved campgrounds with proper fire rings, but why take the chance?

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has also ordered people to smoke only in enclosed vehicles, for obvious reasons, and to drive vehicles only on developed roads. A vehicle’s catalytic converter can easily set off a fire in dry grass.

The DFW has also banned target shooting, except at approved ranges, because even a small spark can ignite dry fuel that will burn furiously and quickly.

A little bit of awareness and a lot of care will prevent the start of any new fires before the fall rains return and bring moisture back to tinder-dry lands.

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