Outdoors

Bad fire season expected in the Mid-Columbia. Tight restrictions set for wildlife refuge visitors

Hanford Reach fire from Aug. 21

Franklin County Fire District 4 responds to a fire Monday, Aug. 21, at the Hanford Reach National Monument.
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Franklin County Fire District 4 responds to a fire Monday, Aug. 21, at the Hanford Reach National Monument.

Tight fire restrictions took effect Thursday morning for visitors to national wildlife refuges and the Hanford Reach National Monument in the Mid-Columbia.

Use of any fire, including charcoal briquettes and cooking stoves, is prohibited.

Also banned are smoking outside of an enclosed vehicle and operation of any motor without an approved spark arrester. Many large fires on refuge lands are started when vehicles pull to the side of the road in areas with tall grass.

Fireworks are banned year-round.

The wet spring in the Mid-Columbia has helped grass and other plants flourish.

“With the increase in vegetation, this fire season we will likely see larger, more devastating wildfires that are difficult to fight,” said John Janak, fire management officer.

Wildfires have already burned 20,000 acres this month at the Columbia and McNary wildlife refuges.

The fire restrictions that started Thursday will be in place through Sept. 30. They cover the Hanford Reach National Monument and Columbia, Cold Springs, Conboy Lake, McKay Creek, McNary, Toppenish and Umatilla National wildlife refuges.

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