While a few recent rains have prompted the state wildlife department to ease its fire restrictions on all agency-managed lands in eastern Washington, that doesn’t mean people should stop taking seriously the potential wildfire danger on those lands.
Some apparently didn’t even take it seriously when the restrictions were in place, says enforcement Capt. Rich Mann of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We’ve had people doing things wrong all during the closure — not a lot, but we’ve had plenty of complaints of people shooting when they shouldn’t be,” says Mann, who’s based out of the WDFW’s Yakima region headquarters.
“Our lowlands are crispy-dritter dry,” Mann said. “I want people to know we’re actively issuing tickets for people who aren’t following these restrictions.”
Mann had been out to the unofficial shooting range off Sheep Company Road in the Wenas Wildlife Area a week ago and then was back early this week. “And it looks like over the week=end, somebody had a little beer party and decided they had to have a campfire, because they left their beer bottles and half-burnt wood.
“(The campfire) was there long enough that had time to melt the glass.”
This week WDFW began easing fire restrictions on its lands throughout the state — once again allowing target shooting on wildlife lands and smoking outside an enclosed vehicle, two activities which had been curtailed by an emergency rule earlier this summer. But campfires remain illegal on WDFW lands, and target shooting on the Wenas Wildlife Area is legal only until 11 a.m. daily through the end of September because of the higher potential for a spark igniting the dry underbrush in the heat of the afternoon.
The campfire at the Sheep Company Road range, Mann said, was in the dirt parking lot where it didn’t do any real damage. “But within 30 feet on either side of that, it’s all tall grass. Any wind and a spark and it’s all gone.
“It’s still tinder-dry out there.”