Community

Only you can put out forest fires; San Juan County burn ban now in effect

By COLLEEN SMITH ARMSTRONG
The Islands' Sounder

If you start any kind of fire this summer, you're going to pay the price.

The San Juan County Fire Marshal has issued a burn ban for the county, which means campfires, fire pits, free-standing fixtures, and beach fires are all banned. Those who disregard the ban will be fined and/or billed the cost of fighting the fire.

“We're scared,” Orcas Island firefighter Paul Turner said. “We've had two significant fires on the island already.”

Unless there is a substantial amount of rain, this burn ban will be in effect through the summer. Fire departments have posted signs across the islands, informing the public about the ban, but are still getting calls about what is allowed.

“No means no,” Turner said. “No fires right now. That's it.”

Because of the high volume of wildland fires throughout Washington and Canada, if the islands have a major fire requiring outside help from the DNR and other fire departments, it could be days away.

“They do their best to help us out, but we're on our own right now,” Orcas Fire Department public information officer Max Jones said.

Jones asks people to remember that even a tiny fire can have serious consequences. If any sparks blow onto a beach, it could ignite days later. Or if a campfire goes deep into the ground, it can smolder without anyone knowing and cause a fire days or weeks later.

“It is so dry right now that the soil is not moist, even deep down,” she said. “It's unusually dry. The ignitability right now is extreme.”

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