Summer fire rules kick off today in Washington

It may not feel warm outside yet, but Washington’s “summer fire rules” are now in effect.

“Whether fire season is delayed or not, Washington’s forests always face the threat of wildfire,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “We’re preparing now to be ready for fire season before the weather heats up, and I encourage all our neighbors to do the same.”

The state's summer fire rules are in effect until October 15. The rules apply to the 13 million acres of private and state forestlands protected by the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

These regulations affect loggers, firewood cutters, land clearers, road builders, heavy equipment operators, off-road motorcyclists, and others. During fire season, people using motorized equipment in the woods must have approved spark arresters and follow fire safety precautions. In addition, those working in the woods must have fire prevention and extinguishing equipment in good working order at the job site and workers trained in proper use.

The rules are intended to prevent forest fires and to extinguish small fires before they spread to the forested lands. These rules restrict cigarette smoking in forested areas to roads, gravel pits, or other clearings and prohibit lighting fireworks on forestland.

According to experts, Washington's forests always face the threat of wildfire. So even though we have above average snowpack, the risk of wildfire can change quickly during the springtime.

"As soon as the weather conditions warm up and the humidity begins to drop, the ground conditions become much more of a tinderbox very very quickly and certainly as the summer goes on," Kyle Ohashi of Puget Sound Regional Fire told Q13 News.

Property owners can reduce fire risk to their homes and lands by keeping dead vegetation off roofs and away from buildings. The Firewise program explains how to use these techniques and offers incentives to communities who follow Firewise principles.

Last year, more than 32,800 acres of DNR-protected lands were consumed by 815 wildfires. Out of 815 wildfires, 90 percent were human-caused.