Yes, we’ve had some rain around the state in recent days — even damaging deluges in places such as the North Cascades — but campers should be aware: The two-week-old ban on campfires in Washington’s state parks continues.
That’s puzzled some campers in places such as the Washington coast where it hasn’t seemed very dry. Here’s an excerpt from an email that came to me Friday night from a California visitor to a coastal state park:
“Tonight I write you from Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington, where it is 57 degrees at 98 percent humidity. According to another website, the fire danger is rated as ‘very low.’ Five hours inland, large wildfires may be raging, but you wouldn’t know it here, where mist-caused water drops pellet my van’s roof. Which prompts my question: Under what authority does Washington State make the idiotic demand all campfires cease?”
The authority comes from the Washington Administrative Code, Section 352-32-125, governing fires and campfires in state parks (boldface is my addition):
All fires, except campfires, fires for stoves, candles, torches, barbeques and charcoal, are prohibited in state parks. Campfires are restricted to within the designated campfire pit, ring or other provided campfire enclosure and the flame must be no higher than two feet. On ocean beaches, campfires must be at least one hundred feet from the dunes, no more than four feet in diameter and no more than four feet high. No campfires are allowed on any shellfish bed. Park rangers may impose additional restrictions on fires for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of the public, park visitors or staff, or for the protection of park resources.
So, yes, your park ranger does seem to have a legal right to make you put out your campfire, and the rule will continue until further notice. The parks commission has made the case that firefighting resources statewide are too stretched already. Lightning over the weekend, including thousands of lightning strikes across Washington Friday night, set new fires east of the Cascade Mountains.
“I know it looks wet in some places but it still is very dry,” said Virginia Painter, spokeswoman for the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission. “Until further notice, the campfire ban will continue. We will be evaluating it on an ongoing basis.”