Campers beware: The last couple of days of cooler, slightly wetter weather notwithstanding, campfires are not allowed anywhere within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest — not even in designated Wilderness.
Forest officials’ decision late last week to ban all campfires within the Okanogan-Wenatchee, including the higher-elevation Wilderness areas, came in the midst of what may be the worst fire season in Washington state history. This week’s light precipitation doesn’t change the fact that the forests are tinder-dry, and the fire danger levels remain officially at Very High.
“The rain won’t change much,” said Mick Mueller, the Okanogan-Wenatchee’s acting public affairs officer. “And next week we’re looking at having more warming and drying, with a potential lightning event early next week.”
Under the Forest-wide closure, the use of all wood- and charcoal-based campfires is banned, though campers can still use pressurized liquid gas stoves or the type of enclosed solid-fuel units that use a wick to distribute the flame.
Mueller asked forest users to be watchful, to report any suspicious smoke and to put out any abandoned campfires they might encounter.
“Public cooperation has been excellent when campfire restrictions have been necessary in the past,” Mueller said. “And right now, that same cooperation is crucial.”