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Burn ban, high temps reach critical mass

Temperatures have been so high for so long this summer, firefighters throughout the area are enacting stringent burn bans.

County fire officials say wild fires morphing into urban fires are not ruled out.

How is the ban being enforced?

“Mostly it’s neighbors calling to complain,” said Lindsy Ingram, CKFR spokeswoman. Sometimes illegal fires are spotted by fire officials driving around.

“We go out and ask them to put out the fire,” she said, “and let them know we can exact a fine.”

Fines can reach hundreds of dollars, depending on circumstances.

Local firefighters have been responding to dozens of hot spots springing up all over the area.

“They’re started by fireworks, lit cigarettes and illegal backyard bonfires” spreading floating embers, she said.

The recent Whaling Days weekend serves as an good example. There were three fires: on July 25, a 25 square-foot brush fire caused by a youngster playing with matches was put out by passers-by along Bucklin Hill Road; July 26, a two-acre brush fire near Lake Tahuyeh took firefighters seven hours to knock down; and on July 27, CKFR responded to a 70-square-foot brush fire near Northlake Way along Chico Creek.

Many more brush fires were reported throughout the county — in brush, trees and encroaching on homes across dry lawns. Many fires are still under investigation.

“Water content in brush is down to 15 percent in many places,” said Ingram.

According to Fire Inspector Bill Minks of the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue, the burn ban includes:

• No bonfires; that is, fires on the open ground, large or small, usually used to burn yard waste. At this point, such fires are illegal even when surrounded by cinder blocks or stones, or when a pit is dug.

• No “trash” fires are allowed at any time. No fires are ever allowed in fire barrels.

• No so-called “brush-burners” are allowed. These resemble small, pot-bellied stoves for outdoor use.

The only outdoor fires permitted are barbecues in a proper receptacle, using briquettes to cook food. Gas or electric barbecues are also allowed.

When the widespread burn ban is lifted, “recreational” fires in pits or surrounded by stones will once again be allowed. A sustained rain is needed.

Kitsap County Fire Marshal Derrick Crawley said when it gets this dry, folks have to remember “we’re living in a forest.” Outlying areas are not the only places at risk. Fire can burn into neighborhoods, communities and cities.

Crawley said we’re lucky we’re on the “wet” side of the state.

Meanwhile, rules for burning in Washington state parks vary widely because of the tinderbox conditions from county to county. Call each park to confirm their status.

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