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All outdoor burning banned due to wildfire danger

Strike a match around these parts and chances are you’ll be facing a stiff fine, or maybe even some jail time.

Gov. Jay Inslee last Friday extended a burn ban that includes most outdoor and agricultural burning in 20 counties east of the Cascades.

And, yesterday (Monday) the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency declared a Stage 1 burn ban for Yakima County.

In addition, with dangerously hot and dry weather driving fire danger to a new high, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources is expanding the current statewide burn ban on all of that agency’s lands…with no exceptions.

Inslee, in extending the burn ban in 20 counties east of the crest of the Cascade Mountains, announced the extension is in effect through this coming Friday, Aug. 15. This is the third time Inslee has extended this burn ban. His concern stems from the numerous wildfires that have ravaged the state and left numerous people homeless.

The Stage 1 Burn Ban that’s been declared in Yakima County is in effect until further notice. This ban has been called due to poor air quality conditions combined with poor ventilation and dispersion.

This burn ban, said Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency officials, is in addition to the fire safety burn ban declared by the governor’s office.

During a Stage 1 Burn Ban all outdoor burning, including agricultural burning, is prohibited. The use of any fireplace, uncertified wood stove or uncertified fireplace insert is prohibited unless it is the only adequate means of heating a home. Also, no excessive smoke (over 20 percent opacity) is allowed from any wood burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up; and all violations of the burn ban are subject to civil penalty.

The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency also notes the Yakama Nation is addressing air quality issues in conjunction with the EPA, under the federal air rules for reservations.  For up-to-date information about burning on the Yakama Nation Reservation, call 1-800-424-4372 and ask for the FARR Hotline or visit the Federal Air Rules for Reservations (FARR) website for the current burn status (www.epa.gov/r10earth/FARR.htm).

In extending the statewide burn ban on all Department of Natural Resources lands, agency officials say all outdoor burning is prohibited.

“All indicators are that we’ll continue to have high heat, low humidity and storm systems with winds and lightning,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.

“That means huge potential for wildfires,” said Goldmark. “We need to do everything we can to minimize danger to people, homes and habitat.”

Hot and dry conditions since early summer have caused very high fire hazard conditions throughout the state. These conditions have caused fires to spread rapidly and challenged firefighting efforts.

More than $91 million has been spent so far battling wildfires in 2014, and more than 350,000 acres have burned across the state. There are many weeks to go in this year’s fire season, which usually runs into October, Goldmark said.

In explaining that all outdoor burning on DNR-protected lands is prohibited under this ban, Goldmark said that includes recreational fires in campgrounds or anywhere on DNR-protected lands. Fireworks and incendiary devices, such as exploding targets, sky lanterns or tracer ammunition are illegal on all DNR-protected lands, as well. Charcoal briquettes, too, are also not allowed.

In addition, DNR officials urge extreme caution around any activity that may cause a fire to start. Under these severe fire-hazard conditions, logging operations, land clearing, road and utility right-of-way maintenance, use of spark-emitting equipment and other activities that create a high risk of fire ignition should be drastically curtailed.

Those who negligently allow fire to spread or who knowingly place forestlands in danger of destruction or damage are subject to possible civil liabilities and criminal penalties under state law. DNR, as well as anyone harmed by such a fire, may pursue damages that include loss of property and fire suppression costs.

The statewide burn ban will run through Sept. 30. It applies to all lands under DNR fire protection, which does not include federally owned lands.

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