Summer is approaching and that means time to be outdoors and active. Picnics, camping, boating, hiking and bicycling are excellent summer activities on the Key Peninsula. The danger of fire is very real. In 2018, 67 people died in fires in Washington and there were more than 24,900 fire incidents.
“Our area is showing little sign of drought improvement,” said KP Fire District 16 Chief Dustin Morrow. Until a fire safety burn ban is issued, outdoor fires are allowed, but may require a permit. Outdoor burning for hand-stacked piles less than 4 feet in diameter does not require a permit. Such fires must be 100 feet away from any occupied structure and must be attended with water and shovel available. All other outdoor burning requires a permit from the KP Fire Dept.
“Never burn garbage, construction debris, tires or any related material, (they) are prohibited and can cause a fire to get out of control quickly,” Morrow said. “Also, never use any flammable liquid to start your fire.”
The Pierce County Fire Marshal issues the fire safety burn bans for the county, using current weather, weather forecasts, information from the Department of Natural Resources on fuel conditions and availability of staff to fight fires in making a decision about fire safety burn bans.
At times Pierce County loans firefighters to Washington, Oregon and California to fight wildfires in those locations.
There are additional concerns regarding fireworks on the Key Peninsula. Fireworks are not legal in county or state parks or on any school property. In unincorporated portions of the county like the KP, fireworks can only be used from July 1 to 3 between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m, until midnight on July 4.
Open flame and smoking materials are also a significant cause of fires. The majority of deaths occur in residential locations and many of those are either not equipped with smoke alarms or the devices were not working. The KPFD recommends testing smoke detectors at least annually and replacing batteries if they are not working, especially near bedrooms. The department can also provide smoke detectors to those who cannot afford them.
In its publication,“How to Prepare for a Wildfire,” the DNR recommends creating defensible space around homes, including clearing away debris and flammable materials as well as using fire-resistant materials for landscaping and construction. It also suggests reviewing insurance coverage and being prepared for early evacuation if necessary, encouraging residents to be aware of evacuation routes and consider alternatives in case a primary route is closed.
KPFD will present “Guarding Against Wildland Fire” July 2 on prevention techniques to protect people and property 7 p.m. at the Key Center station.
For information on burn bans go to keypeninsulafire.org or call 253-798-7278.