Clark County issues burn ban as clear skies, warm weather to stick around

Jerzy Shedlock, The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.
·4 min read

Apr. 15—The sun's rays are here to stay in Clark County, at least for another week or so.

But climbing temperatures and dry conditions prompted officials to issue warnings about fire dangers and to put in place a fire ban for one week. Meanwhile, local waters are too cold for safe swimming.

Vancouver reached the mid-70s today, and temperatures are expected to climb into the 80s through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.

The city's high for Friday is forecast to be 78 degrees. The high on Saturday and Sunday is expected to be near 83, forecasters say. Things will cool down a bit next week, with the extended forecast through Wednesday showing temperatures in the 70s.

The weather service issued a special weather statement this morning due to the hot days ahead. The statement indicates there will be an "unseasonable high fire danger" this weekend.

"A period of prolonged offshore flow combined with slowly warming temperatures will lead to unseasonably dry conditions this week. ... Even breezier conditions are expected on Friday as offshore flow strengthens," the weather service said.

When the temperatures in the 80s arrive this weekend, it should be less breezy and relative humidity values were expected to fall from between 20 percent and 30 percent today and Friday into the teens Friday and Saturday, forecasters said.

"The warm, dry, and windy conditions will further dry out vegetation that is already near record dryness for this time of year," the weather service said.

The high temperatures will be consistent throughout the county, said NWS forecaster Scott Weishaar. The average for Vancouver this time of year is around 63 degrees, so even rural areas will be 15 degrees warmer than average, Weishaar said.

Although it will be warm, local lakes and rivers are too cold for safe swimming. The Columbia River at Vancouver was 47 degrees this morning. Boaters and paddlers are reminded to wear life jackets.

Burn ban ordered

On the heels of the weather statement, Clark County Fire Marshal Dan Young implemented a temporary burn ban that goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and will remain in place for an entire week.

Clark County is joining the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, as well as Skamania, Cowlitz, Pacific, Lewis and Wahkiakum counties in issuing a ban, according to a news release from the local fire marshal.

Clark County's burn ban applies to outdoor debris burning. The fire marshal is also rescinding all burning permits issued prior to the ban. The permits will be reissued once the ban has been lifted. The ban does not apply to federally smanaged lands.

"The ban is being implemented due to the unusually dry conditions for this time of year," said Young. "The forecasted warm, dry weather and a lack of humidity over the next week will increase the potential for fire danger."

Recreational campfires on forest lands are allowed only in fire pits in designated campgrounds, such as commercial campgrounds and local, county and state parks. On private land, recreational fires are permitted when built according to these regulations:

—Recreational fires must be in a metal-, stone- or masonry-lined fire pit such as those in improved campgrounds or available at home and garden stores.

—The size of the fires may not exceed 3 feet in diameter by 2 feet in height.

—Fires must be at least 25 feet from a structure or other combustible material and have at least 20 feet of clearance from overhead fuels such as tree limbs, patio covers or carports.

—Fires must be attended at all times by a responsible person at least 16 years old who has the ability and tools to extinguish the fire. Tools include a shovel and either 5 gallons of water or a connected and charged water hose.

—Portable outdoor fireplaces, also known as patio fireplaces, designed to burn solid wood should not be operated within 15 feet of a structure or combustible material and must always be used following the manufacturer's instructions.

—Completely extinguish recreational fires by covering them with water or moist soil and stirring with a shovel until all parts are cool to the touch.

—Self-contained camp stoves are a safe and easy alternative to campfires.

Young urged county residents to practice wildfire prevention by creating a "defensible space" around their homes. Find out more about wildfire prevention on the county's website at clark.wa.gov/code-administration/wildfire-prevention.