With warmer, drier weather likely this summer, awareness of outdoor burning regulations and burn bans is more important than ever. Permits are required for most outdoor burning, regardless of whether a burn ban is in effect.
State agencies are forecasting above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for Western Washington. Adding to a potential arid outdoors is a mountain snowpack that, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology, is about half the normal amount when averaged statewide.
John Cermak, fire chief with North County Fire & EMS is concerned that if dry conditions persist the likelihood of wildfires will increase.
According to Cermak, regional fire authorities are phone conferencing weekly to discuss conditions. Low fuel moisture content, the amount of water in vegetation, is of particular concern.
“Conditions this year indicate that we will potentially experience lower fuel moisture content and a higher risk of wildfires,” he said.
Wildfires are a real risk everywhere, including on Camano Island, as evidenced by a tweet in March from @CamanoFire (Camano Island Fire & Rescue) about the fire danger.
“Out of 50 brush fires (this year), 49 of them have been west of the Cascades,” CIFR tweeted on March 27.
Just two days later, March 29, CIFR crews were battling a brush fire in steep terrain with limited access by Livingston Bay Road; it was caused by an unpermitted fire, SC News reported April 2.
A short time later the same day, crews responded to another fire, this time in the Country Club neighborhood. CIFR said it was caused by someone burning weeds with a torch.
Cermak urges residents to follow outdoor burning regulations, pay attention to media for burn ban announcements and to practice common sense around their homes.
“It’s important to keep dry combustibles away from your house and other structures,” he said. “Extra caution should be exercised in order to prevent wildfires.”
CIFR Chief Levon Yengoyan echoes Cermak’s advice.
“Regardless of the timing of burn bans, we ask that all of our residents be extremely cautious when it comes to outdoor burning and other activities that may ignite nearby vegetation,” Yengoyan said. “Most wildfires are caused by humans and we can all help to minimize these risks.”
Before starting a fire
All outdoor fires are subject to burn ban regulations in both Island and Snohomish County. The state Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service also issue burning restrictions for state and federal lands. Most fires are subject to permitting regulations.
- In Island County: Visit islandcountywa.gov or call 360-678-8261 for permit information or waburnban.net for information on outdoor burn bans. The Public Health Department at Camano Annex, 121 N. East Camano Drive, issues permits.
- In Snohomish County: Visit snohomishcountywa.gov for permit information or call Burning Information Line at 425-388-3508 to verify if burn bans are in effect due to high fire danger or air quality conditions.
- On DNR lands: Visit dnr.wa.gov/OutdoorBurning.
- Safety information: Visit smokeybear.com
- Fire danger forecast: Visit fortress.wa.gov/dnr/protection/firedanger
Types of fires
Both Island and Snohomish counties classify outdoor fires in three categories.
- Land Clearing Fires – fires to clear land for development, such as building a new structure or subdivision. These types of fires are banned in Snohomish County and they require a permit in Island County.
- Residential Fires – small fires to burn yard and gardening waste. These fires require a permit in both counties.
- Recreational Fires – small fires using charcoal or wood for cooking or pleasure on private property or designated public areas. These fires require no permit on both counties.