Fire danger prompts ban in wildlife refuge areas

By the Herald staff June 29, 2011 

The Fish and Wildlife Service has banned fires and activities that could start fires on all refuges in the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The Mid-Columbia wildlife refuges include the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Columbia, Cold Springs, Conboy Lake, McKay Creek, McNary, Toppenish and Umatilla National Wildlife Refuges.

The ban covers building any fire, including the use of charcoal briquettes and cooking stoves.

Smoking is allowed only inside enclosed vehicles. Operating motors that do not have an approved and working spark arrester also is prohibited. Fireworks are banned year-round.

Officials are concerned about the heavy vegetation this year and dry weather conditions during the holiday weekend.

"The cool, wet spring has resulted in a heavy fuel load, primarily from cheat grass and other invasive plants," said Thomas Skinner, Fish and Wildlife fire management officer. "As the vegetation dries out, we're going to have the right conditions for large, fast-moving fires that could be hard to control."

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