Outdoor burning in Cowlitz County will be restricted starting June 21, nearly a month earlier than normal due to riskier than average fire conditions, the county Fire Marshal’s Office announced Monday.

Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue Chief Dave LaFave said that current fire conditions are comparable to what firefighters usually see around mid to late July.

“The forecasted weather is a continued pattern of dry and warm, lower humidities and wind,” LaFave said. “Those are the very things that, when they come into alignment, we start seeing more fires developing into larger fires and faster moving fires.”

The ban covers land clearing and most outdoor burning on residential and unimproved (forested) property. It applies to all parts of Cowlitz County. Residential campfires are allowed within improved fire pits on designated campgrounds, or on private land with the following conditions:

  • Built with the landowner’s permission
  • Built within a metal, stone or masonry-lined fire pit
  • Not exceeding three feet in diameter and two feet in height
  • At least 25 feet away from a structure or combustible material such as tree limbs or patio covers (Portable outdoor or patio fireplaces should be at least 15 feet away)
  • Attended at all times by someone 16 years or older who can quickly extinguish the fire

All burn permits issued prior to the ban will be rescinded and can be reissued or extended by the Fire Marshal after the ban is lifted, according to a press release.

Outdoor burning is typically restricted from July 15 through September 30, according to the release. Firefighters anticipate the ban this year to remain through the end of September.

LaFave encouraged residents to be mindful of potential fire starters, especially during hot, dry afternoons. For example, mowers, chainsaws and other power equipment can create sparks when they hit rocks, LaFave said.

The earlier start time likely won’t change any rules around using fireworks on the Fourth of July, which now falls under the burn ban, LaFave said. But it means law enforcement will likely place a higher priority on enforcing laws against illegal fireworks, he said.

This ban is one of several going into effect. Wahkiakum county announced last week a burn ban that also starts Friday, and similar bans were announced Monday in Skamania, Lewis and Clark counties.

LaFave pointed out one sign of the drier conditions: He’s already putting up hay.

“This year is the earliest I’ve ever put it up,” LaFave said. “I already have hay in the barn, which is pretty unusual for the area.”

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