Wildfire risk high west of Cascades this weekend

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by JIM FORMAN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Jimformanking5

KING5.com

Posted on August 13, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 13 at 10:58 PM

SEATTLE -- State officials warn that hot weather conditions are creating a high wildfire risk west of the Cascades this weekend, and are asking residents to be extra careful with fire and outdoor tools, which could spark a wildfire.

Many Washington counties have fire hazard levels rated "high" to "extreme" this weekend due to dry weather and low moisture levels in grasses, trees, and other vegetation.

"We can't emphasize enough how important it is to follow burn restrictions and be careful with fire," said Joe Shramek, manager of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Resource Protection Division. "Over the next few days, I'm especially concerned about the potential for wildfires in areas west of the Cascade Mountains because of the dry, easterly winds that are expected along with unusually hot weather."

A DNR statewide burn ban is in effect for all DNR-protected lands through September 30. The ban includes all forestlands in Washington except for federal lands. Campgrounds may have additional burn restrictions in place. Campers should check with their campground host before starting a campfire.

Friday night, a team of Forest Service firefighters had to converge on Denny Creek just off Interstate 90 to put out an abandoned campfire that escaped the ring it was built in.

Campfires left to burn themselves out are just one of the things the Department of Natural Resources is worried about this weekend. It will be prime camping weather and people headed out into the woods are urged to check on updated fire restrictions. Suburban firefighters say backyard barbecues can be trouble, too. They warn you to be aware of your surroundings when cooking.

Just one sign of how fast a fire can take off in dry Western Washington is in the Olympic National Park. A lightning-sparked fire that had been burning for a week and was just two acres on Thursday mushroomed to 120 acres Friday.

Another wildfire north of Lake Wenatche has firefighters calling for more resources. The Basalt Peak Fire, sparked by lightning storms and hot, dry weather, has burned about ten acres.

It's clear that firefighters are not wondering if another big fire will happen, but when.

Check local conditions and restrictions by calling 1-800-323-BURN (2976) or CLICKING HERE.

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