Due to the combination of unprecedented conditions, the recent heatwave and the Fourth of July holiday approaching the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park are implementing fire restrictions that will only allow fires in designated areas (links below). Officials are also reminding the public that all fireworks – sparklers included – are prohibited on all federal public lands, including the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park, year-round regardless of weather conditions.
Campfires are restricted to designated campgrounds and picnic areas with established fire rings. Gas or propane camp stoves may still be used in the wilderness backcountry, but should be operated well away from flammable vegetation and forest litter. Extreme caution is urged with any open flame. Due to the nature of the fragile and dry alpine vegetation, fires are never allowed above elevation of 3500 feet.
Prior to the recent heatwave, precipitation levels were already below average this year elevating wildfire risk across the western side of Washington state. The record-breaking temperatures felt across the Pacific Northwest have resulted in more rapid drying, quickly elevating the fire danger across the state to a level not typically seen at this time of year.
“The entire peninsula is abnormally dry,” said Todd Rankin, Fire Management Officer for Olympic Interagency Fire Management. “People often assume parts of the peninsula are not at risk of wildfire, but even the rain forest areas like the Quinault and Hoh river valleys and beaches along the coast are susceptible too.”
By following these safety tips and only having fires in areas where campfires are allowed, visitors can help prevent avoidable wildfires:
1. Let the night sky be your show
- Fireworks are illegal on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. Violators are subject to a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail (36 CFR 261.52) and may additionally be held liable for suppression costs. Check local jurisdictions if visiting State, County or City Parks.
2. Keep campfires small
- A campfire is less likely to escape control if it is kept small. A large fire may cast hot embers long distances. Add firewood in small amounts as existing material is consumed.
3. Attend your campfire at all times
- A campfire left unattended for even a few minutes can grow into a costly, damaging wildfire. Stay with your campfire from start to finish until it is dead out, as required by law. That ensures any escaped sparks or embers can be extinguished quickly.
4. Extinguish all campfires before leaving – even if gone for a short period of time
- Bring a shovel and a bucket of water to extinguish any escaped embers. When you are ready to leave, drown all embers with water, stir the coals, and drown again. Repeat until the fire is DEAD out. If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
Call 911 or your local non-emergency line to report illegal use of fireworks or unsafe fire use. Additional campfire and wildfire safety information can be found at the Smokey the Bear website.