Prepare for dangerous fire season

The current fire risk conditions in San Juan County are rated "Moderate" and are more typical of August than June. Grasslands are already sufficiently dried out so that one careless act may cause a serious fire. Other fuels, like large bushes and trees, are also showing signs of being less resistant to fire than normal because the amount of moisture that they’ve been able to retain.

The fire risk in San Juan County is determined by averaging the “1,000 hour fuel moisture” reported by automated weather stations located in Bellingham, Oak Harbor and Everett. Those are the closest facilities available. When the readings show 23% moisture or more, the fire risk is considered to be “low”. At 22% fuel moisture, the risk is moved to “moderate”. 18% is the trigger to move to “high” fire risk. When the number drops to 15% or less, a complete burning ban is implemented.

Some years, the fire risk stays “low” until early fall, when it moves to “moderate” for a few weeks. This year, the hazard level moved to “moderate” in early June, which is very unusual. With warm and dry weather in the long range forecast, it’s very likely that the hazard level will need to be moved to “high” very soon.

If you currently hold a burn permit, fires are now restricted to the hours of 6 AM to Noon. All burn permits will expire on June 30, 2015. However, should the fire risk increase to “high” before then, all burn permits would become invalid at that time.

Recreational fires – fires that are less than two feet in diameter, and are surrounded by a six foot diameter area free of grass and brush – continue to be allowed. If you choose to light a recreational fire, be sure that you have a source of water nearby, and make sure that the fire is completely extinguished before you leave it unattended. Visit http://www.smokeybear.com/put-out-campfire.asp for more information about how to be certain a recreational fire has been completely extinguished before you leave it.

If you plan on mowing tall grass or trimming any brush on your property, please do so in the morning, when humidity levels are higher. And, ALWAYS have a ready means of extinguishing a small fire and calling for help if a fire does start.

Now is also a good time to look around your home. Remove any debris that may have collected in your rain gutters. Sweep leaves and tree needles off of your roof. Trim back tree limbs and brush from your home. Make sure your firewood is stored away from your home. More tips to protect your home and neighborhood are available at www.firewise.org.

The San Juan County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Fire Districts on Orcas, San Juan, Lopez and Shaw Islands all agree that we’re experiencing great weather, but that everyone needs to be extra careful with fire.

Please help keep San Juan County beautiful by making sure that everything you do is fire safe.

BACKGROUND: The San Juan County Fire Marshal’s Office is a function of the Community Development and Planning Department, and works closely with the fire districts on Orcas, San Juan, Lopez and Shaw Islands, along with the State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office.

San Juan County Fire Marshal Bob Lowe can be contacted at  360.378.3473 .

More information is available at www.sjcfiremarshal.org, www.dnr.wa.gov and www.wsp.wa.gov/fire/firemars.htm.

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