Our Northwest

Campfire bans: who’s affected, and where

Wednesday, August 13, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

So you want to go outside, relish our great summer weather, and enjoy a campfire.
   But wait – you hear there’s a burn ban. Or is there? How can one campground allow fires, while another doesn’t? And what about wilderness areas?
   Burn bans can be a little confusing. So let’s sort it out, using Washington as our example.
   Currently, extreme wildfire danger has prompted a ban on all outdoor burning on lands protected by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). For example, rural residents who live outside city limits in counties like Kittitas, Chelan, and Yakima fall under DNR jurisdiction. Those folks can’t burn slash or roast weenies over an open flame.
   All but a few Washington State Parks are protected by the DNR, and as of Aug. 12, campfires are prohibited at state parks. So if you planned to enjoy a blaze at Lake Wenatchee, Deception Pass, or Steamboat Rock, for example, you’re out of luck through Sept. 30.
   Some people get confused because, while campfires might be banned at Lake Easton State Park, kids are roasting marshmallows up the road at Kachess and Salmon la Sac campgrounds. That’s because the latter are U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, not State Parks campgrounds. And burn bans don’t always coincide between state and federal lands. (Currently, that’s not the case – fires are banned in all campgrounds.)
   On top of that, wilderness campers should check out restrictions in our National Forests. On July 17, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest banned campfires forest-wide. And even when wildfire danger is not high, wilderness areas observe permanent campfire restrictions based on elevation and proximity to certain lakes.
   For those who rely on campfires for cooking, rather than sheer ambiance, there’s good news: Propane and liquid-gas stoves typically are allowed during campfire bans. However, briquettes are not.
   Check out the latest burn bans in Washington and Oregon on our ‘Don’t Get Burned!’ site.

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