The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Tuesday banned outdoor fires on land protected by the agency.
The statewide ban is in effect through Sept. 30 and prohibits campfires in developed campgrounds and other recreational fires. The ban also bars prescribed burns.
Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands, said hot and dry conditions made the potential for wildfire unusually high on both sides of the Cascades.
The National Weather Service issued a warning for extreme weather conditions with the possibility of thunderstorms and lightning that could spark new fires east of the Cascades, continuing through Thursday.
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“We have hundreds of firefighters fighting two major wildfires and numerous smaller fires in Washington state. Our resources are stretched thin,” Goldmark said.
Nearly 1,700 firefighters were working to control two wildfires already burning, including a blaze that has destroyed three homes and several outbuildings.
The Colockum Tarps fire has burned across more than 92 square miles of grass, sagebrush and timber southeast of Wenatchee in the Colockum Pass area. The fire was 8 percent contained Tuesday night. Fire spokesman Jeff Sevigney told The Wenatchee World that two Forest Service Hot Shot crews would hike into the rugged, remote area south of the fire to begin building containment lines to stop its advance.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the fire burning in Chelan and Kittitas counties.
Kittitas County commissioners declared an emergency Tuesday because of the flames, and about 60 homes have been evacuated.
More than 340 firefighters were focused on protecting power lines, recreation areas, wind farms and some scattered homes south of the fire, said Peter Frenzen, another fire spokesman.
“The winds and the thunderstorms are a concern, but on the plus side, we’re also looking at the possibility of some moisture by Thursday,” Frenzen said.
Farther south, about 1,345 firefighters were working to control a fire that has burned across 35 square miles around Satus Pass and closed Highway 97 between Goldendale, Klickitat County, and Toppenish, Yakima County.
The fire was 60 percent contained Tuesday. Residents were allowed to return to 69 homes on the fire’s south end, said Bruce Livingston, a DNR spokesman.
A containment line was established most of the way across the southern and western end of the fire, Livingston said, and crews were focusing on the eastern edge of the blaze.
A lightning-caused fire southeast of Stehekin at the north end of Lake Chelan threatened six homes and closed a campground and trail. The Moore Point Fire, seven miles from Stehekin, fire grew from 50 acres to 250 on Tuesday and was burning on both private land and in the Lake Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness.
The DNR issued the statewide burn ban to reduce human-caused fires, which account for most wildfires. The ban applies to all forestlands in Washington, except federal lands, and forbids campfires in all state, local and private campgrounds.