Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz

(Pictured) Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz

Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP

OLYMPIA Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and Gov. Jay Inslee are encouraging residents to play it safe when it comes to human-caused wildfires.

The move comes as wildfire season is officially underway, with more than 130 DNR fires in April alone. Unseasonably warm and dry conditions across Washington are increasing fire risk when residents burn yard debris and hit the landscapes to recreate.

“We all deserve a great summer after a year of isolation and hardship, but we won’t get one if wildfires and choking smoke keep us inside,” said Commissioner Franz, who leads the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its wildfire firefighting force. “It only takes one spark to start a devastating wildfire. I’m asking everyone to help our firefighters protect our neighbors and forests from wildfire. Avoid lighting an outdoor fire if you can and, if you do, practice basic fire safety.”

There have been 214 DNR fires since Jan. 1, with 529 total acres burned. The leading causes of these fires are yard debris burn piles and campfires left unattended.

“I encourage Washingtonians to take it outside and enjoy our state’s scenic beauty. Enjoying time outside is good for our mental and physical health, especially after this past year. The outdoors are one of the safest places we can be because of the fresh air – but only if we work to keep it that way,” Inslee said. “As you plan your activities, take a moment to consider how to reduce the risk of unintentionally starting a fire by taking simple precautions. It is incumbent on all of us to protect our state’s communities, firefighters and natural resources.”

Simple reminders that will save lives, livelihoods, and landscapes include:

  • Douse your campfire with water before leaving it – if it’s still warm to the touch, it’s not safe to leave;
  • Never leave a burn pile unattended – have a hose ready should the fire escape the boundaries;
  • Never drag chains connecting a trailer to your car – the sparks can start a wildfire;
  • Target shooting into areas with dry grass is never a good idea �� exploding targets are illegal on DNR-protected lands and should be used with extreme caution where allowed;
  • Watch the weather – windy conditions around a debris burn pile can cause nearby trees and grasses to catch fire and spread quickly; and
  • Play it safe – if you have any doubts about keeping a fire contained, whether it’s a campfire or burn pile, don’t light the fire.

After last year’s historically destructive wildfire season, Franz and Inslee hope residents – east and west, urban and rural – will pay close attention to weather conditions, be responsible when recreating, and use caution with burn piles and campfires.

“As Smokey Bear says, ‘Only you can prevent forest fires,’” said Commissioner Franz. “And, he’s right.”

For more information on wildfire prevention tips and preparing homes and landscapes for wildfire season, visit DNR’s website.