Closure is effective immediately and will remain in place through Friday at the earliest
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is closing all of the lands it manages east of the Cascades to recreation due to high fire danger. The closure will last at least through Friday, and DNR staff will evaluate the possibility of extending it as the week progresses.
Critical wildfire danger and ongoing fires in the area warranted the closure, as Labor Day saw a rash of new fires ignite all around the state.
“We had a historic fire event yesterday – 58 new wildfire starts and nine large fires on the landscape, compounded by hurricane-level winds,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. “That dangerous combination led to smoke-filled skies and low visibility, which grounded our aircraft and limited our ability to fight the fire from the air.
“The destruction we have seen is unimaginable. My heart breaks for the residents of Malden who have seen their homes destroyed.”
With high east wind conditions continuing into the week, wildfire risk remains extreme. These hot, dry and fast-moving winds are extremely dangerous, since they cause fire spread to behave in unpredictable ways and make fires challenging to get under control.
With no lighting yesterday or in the forecast for the next few days, the overwhelming majority of wildfires DNR is responding to are presumed to be human-caused. The agency has responded to 106 fires caused by recreation already this year.
“Whenever we close recreation lands to the public, our only motivation is safety,” Commissioner Franz said. “With more than 300,000 acres burning since Monday, this remains a very volatile and dangerous situation. Because of the scale of these fires, our state’s resources are fully deployed. We are holding nothing back. But that means we must take every possible precaution to prevent new fires from being started. That’s why we’ve taken action.”
Some areas had already been closed for recreation due to the Evans Canyon Fire in Yakima and Kittitas counties, where the BBQ Flats and Wenas recreation areas were closed, as well as the Yakima River Canyon. That fire has burned more than 75,000 acres and is 70 percent contained.
Additionally, timber harvest activities on DNR-managed lands have been shut down at least through Thursday morning because of potential fire risk caused by the ongoing gusty conditions, warm temperatures, and low humidity across Washington. All timber sales and fuel mitigation work on U.S. Forest Service lands performed under DNR’s Good Neighbor Authority has also been halted.
DNR will announce the reopening of public lands to recreation and the resuming of timber harvest activities when it again becomes safe to do so.
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