OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Citing extreme wildfire risk with high temperatures and widespread drought conditions, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and the state lands commissioner took emergency steps Friday to reduce the risk of dangerous wildfires — and deal with them if they start.
The governor also asked people to limit — or forgo — their fireworks use July 4.
“Fireworks, while often part of our Fourth of July celebration, pose an increased risk with the extremely dry conditions we’re experiencing this year,” the governor said in a statement. “We’re strongly urging people to not use them this year and celebrate in a different way.”
His emergency proclamation allows the state Department of Natural Resources to quickly call on the National Guard and the State Guard to help respond to wildfires.
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“The fire danger now is unlike any we’ve seen in a long time, if ever,” Inslee said. “We need to be prepared for the possibility of an unprecedented fire season.”
Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has banned all outdoor fires on state land protected by the Natural Resources Department. Washington State Parks announced a ban on all campfires at state parks and on state-controlled ocean beaches.
The overall ban prohibits campfires in state forests, state parks and anywhere else on 13 million acres of state-protected lands. It will last until Sept. 30.
The burn ban doesn’t cover federal lands or county or city parks.
State officials are acting early as they try to have firefighting resources ready to quickly attack fire starts before they expand.
About 125 new Washington National Guard members recently received firefighting training in Yakima, the governor’s office said. Last year, more than 850 Guard members helped fight wildfires.
The state wildfire season has begun earlier in recent years. As of June 23, there have been 313 wildfires across the state, Inslee’s office said. In 2014, by this date, there were 214 wildfires; in 2013 there were 169; in 2012 there were 155; and in 2011 there were 55.
Last year’s fire season was the biggest on record in Washington, the governor’s office said. The Carlton Complex fire in north-central Washington destroyed more than 250,000 acres.