State to lift closure of DNR lands in Eastern Washington as wildfires wane
The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be lifting what’s been a months-long closure of its public lands on Thursday, with the risk of wildfires steadily decreasing.
All recreational and public access to DNR-managed lands in Eastern Washington was closed in late July, with officials citing record numbers of wildfires driven by persistent drought conditions and excessive heat. That all made for what the DNR described as “unprecedented challenges,” combined with the increased spread of COVID-19 in recent months. In total, crews in Washington have battled over 1,750 fires across over 1,000 square miles since the start of fire season.
There were additional concerns over the potential for more fires over Labor Day weekend, after nearly 800 square miles burned during last year’s holiday spanning just 36 hours. This year, the DNR reports that there were no significant fires started over that period.
With conditions across the state having “improved dramatically” since closing its lands, the belief is that it’s now safe to reopen DNR-managed conservation areas, community forests, and associated roads, trails, campgrounds, and recreational sites. A burn ban will still remain in effect through Sept. 30.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz will provide more details Wednesday on the state of Washington’s wildfire season as it winds down.