The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging people celebrating the Fourth of July to be cautious of the rising fire danger.
The DNR has responded to 470 wildfires so far in 2018, including a fire that has now burned over 5,300 acres and prompted evacuations in Yakima County.
"By all means – get out and celebrate our nation and the freedoms we all enjoy this 4th of July. But please, please, please be careful," said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. "Seventy-five percent of all wildfires are human-caused in Washington and I know we can do better."
More wildfires start on weekends and holiday afternoons, according to the DNR. Leaving campfires unattended, illegal fireworks, not disposing of cigarettes correctly, and dragging tow chains behind vehicles increases the risk of wildfires.
Anyone that causes a wildfire can be held responsible for the costs of fighting the fire.
To help avoid accidental wildfires, the DNR shared the following tips before the Fourth of July holiday:
Camping and recreating
- Only build campfires where authorized and when not under any burn restrictions; put them completely out before leaving camp, even for a few minutes; use plenty of water and stir until the coals are cold to the touch.
- Dispose of lit smoking materials appropriately.
- Fireworks, incendiary ammunition, and exploding targets start fires and are illegal to use or discharge on public lands, including all state forests.
Vehicles and Towing
- Be sure chains and other metal parts aren't dragging from your vehicle or trailer. They can throw sparks and start fires.
- Make sure all off-road vehicles have a properly functioning and approved spark arrester.
- Be careful driving through or parking on dry grass or brush. Hot exhaust pipes can start the grass on fire. You may not even notice the fire until it's too late.
- Check tire pressure and condition. Driving on an exposed wheel rim can cause sparks.
- Have brakes serviced regularly to prevent brake pads wearing too thin; metal on metal can spark or drop pieces of hot brake pad.
Wildfires burned 404,223 acres and cost Washington taxpayers more than $134 million in 2017.
Anyone who spots a wildfire should immediately call 911.