Fire bans in parks, forests vary from agency to agency

Campgrounds, parks and forests will be packed this weekend as South Sound residents look to beat the heat and celebrate the Fourth of July.

Besides a cooler of refreshments, sleeping bags, tents and food, people will want to reconsider how they plan on cooking their meals. Several agencies have banned fires of any kind, while others have severely restricted campfires.

Here is a rundown of the bans across the region:

POINT DEFIANCE PARK: Metro Parks Tacoma managers have banned fires of any kind, including grilling, barbecues and other outdoor flames within the park. Smoking and fireworks are always prohibited in the park and other Metro Parks locations.

Managers are concerned a fire would endanger public safety, destroy the park’s forest and threaten the zoo and other structures in the 760-acre park.

Park officials raised the fire rating at Point Defiance from moderate to high on Tuesday. While the park has fire-suppression lines and hydrants, managers determined the risk was too great to continue to allow fires.

PIERCE COUNTY PARKS: The system does not allow fireworks or opening burning, such as campfires. Visitors can use propane cook and similar stoves, as well as contained charcoal barbecues.

STATE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES: The agency has banned all fires, including wood and charcoal fires in designated campground fire pits or campfire rings. Gas and propane cook stoves are allowed.

Fireworks and incendiary devices are always illegal on agency-protected forestlands, including state parks.

The ban includes all state parks, state forest and anywhere else on the 13 million acres of forest lands the agency protects from wildfire.

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK: Campfires are allowed only in the park’s drive-in campgrounds. Fires are not allowed in the backcountry.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK: Open fires are banned in the wilderness backcountry, including along the wilderness coast. Fireworks are not permitted anywhere in the park. Campfires are permitted only in established fire grates in frontcountry campgrounds. Camp stoves can be used in the wilderness backcountry.

OLYMPIA CITY PARKS:Large yellow signs have been placed at city parks, schools and other places that are popular for the discharging of fireworks, Olympia Park Ranger Sylvana Niehuser said.

No open flames or wood burning fires are allowed in city parks, but briquettes are still okay. Some parks, such as Priest Point Park, have designated standing grills that people can use .

Niehuser said the city has also been mowing and irrigating the grass to eliminate potential fire fuel.

Tennis courts in all Olympia parks will be closed July 4, because those areas have been damaged by fireworks in the past. Courts will reopen July 5.

Regular park staff will be checking park facilities. If they see any violations, they will then educate the park-goers about the rules.

“If they don’t comply we would call dispatch and ask for fire or police assistance,” Niehuser said. “But most people are pretty compliant and understanding.”

Niehuser said all city parks will be open this weekend with park staff on shift just like any other holiday.

THURSTON COUNTY PARKS: No open fires are allowed, including on beaches. All fireworks are prohibited. Only charcoal briquettes can be used in barbecues.

GIFFORD PINCHOT NATIONAL FOREST: As of Friday (July 3) open campfires throughout the forest are banned. Wood and charcoal fires are allowed only in developed campgrounds, picnic areas and group campgrounds with established metal fire pits or rings.

Building open campfires, including charcoal briquettes, cooking fires and warming fires are prohibited.

Permissible sources for cooking include portable stoves or lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel.

MOUNT BAKER-SNOQUALMIE NATIONAL FOREST: Wood and charcoal fires are allowed only in developed campgrounds and group campgrounds that have established concrete or steel-grated fire pits or rings.

Building and tending open campfires, including charcoal briquettes, cooking fires and warming fires are prohibited.

Other allowable sources for cooking or heat include portable stoves or lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST: Managers have banned campfires except those in an established fireplace within a developed recreation area. Briquette fires are not allowed in the restricted areas.

Stove fires are allowed. The fires are built inside an enclosed stove or grill, a portable brazier or a pressurized liquid gas stove, including space-heating devices. Pressurized liquid gas stoves are allowed.

Campfires will not be allowed in the following campgrounds because of the extreme fire potential: Lena Lake and Elkhorn in the Hood Canal Ranger District, and Campbell Tree Grove and Littleton Horse Camp in the Pacific Ranger District.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640