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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

As hot weather persists, Washingtonians can no longer burn outside

Laine Crawford uses a fire extinguisher to put out hot spots near her house at Assembly and West Maxs Lane, Tuesday, June 11, 2024.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

With scorching temperatures persisting, all of Washington is prohibited from burning on forest lands, the Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday.

The ban includes outdoor burning, the use of charcoal briquettes and prescribed burns on land under DNR management.

The move follows a stark heat wave across the state – with temperatures this week passing 100 degrees multiple days – that increased the risk of wildfire, according to DNR. And the dry weather is expected to continue.

Wildfires are also spreading across the state, including one 12,000-acre fire north of Lake Chelan that began this week. The cause is undetermined, according to DNR’s website.

“The record-breaking temperatures we are seeing this week have left our state bone dry,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in a statement. “I am asking everyone in Washington to do their part to protect our firefighters and our communities this summer. Please do not start a fire outside and stay alert when you are outdoors.”

The order, signed by Franz, takes precedent over all other burn bans within the state, it says. It’s expected to last until the end of September, but can be extended or shortened depending on wildfire danger.

A week ago, Spokane County and the city enacted outdoor burn restrictions prohibiting all recreational fires and all open burning.

This includes a backyard fire pit, a campfire or any fireplace manufactured without a spark arrester.

People can still use portable outdoor devices like barbecues or patio warmers, however.

The easiest way to stay safe is to barbecue 25 feet from your home and have an extinguisher nearby in case flames grow out of control.

“A common mistake is people are not putting the fire out all the way, or they don’t have an extinguisher there,” Spokane Fire Department spokesman Justin de Ruyter said.

Another mistake is people believe the fire is out when it’s not, he said.

Early Wednesday morning, two adults and two children were displaced after a fire at 6008 N. Lindeke St.

The fire started when the residents in the home left their barbecue coals to burn out naturally, but ash from the grill ignited nearby brush and leaves around the house.

“(People) think it’s burned out, and it’s not,” de Ruyter said.

Even the slightest breeze can send a hot ember from a former fire into the sky, igniting something else. That’s why people should always pour water over their fires rather than let it burn out by itself, de Ruyter said.

“It can look like from the top that it’s ash, but if you turn the ash up, you’ll get heat,” he said Wednesday.