The fire danger in Benton and Franklin counties is now at its second-highest level.
Benton Fire District 1 raised the level to “very high” Tuesday, one level up from last week’s “high,” because of increased temperatures and moderate periods of cooling in the evening.
The same warning has been put in place for Franklin County, according to Franklin Fire District 3.
In addition, all activities likely to start a fire on Mid-Columbia national wildlife refuges have been banned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife in advance of the holiday weekend.
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The refuges include the Hanford Reach National Monument and Columbia, Cold Springs, Conboy Lake, McKay Creek, McNary, Toppenish and Umatilla national wildlife refuges.
A “very high” fire danger level indicates fires start easily from all causes and may spread faster than normal. Fighting the fire also could take longer.
Recreational fires will be permitted only in legally allowed metal fire rings. Other outdoor fires of any kind are prohibited in both counties.
Benton County fire officials recommend residents buy fireworks in Richland to make sure they comply. Franklin County, which includes Pasco, does not allow fireworks or fireworks sales, in addition to Kennewick. Richland and West Richland allow certain fireworks to be purchased.
Fireworks that comply with Benton County rules may still used, according to Benton Fire District 1.
Use of any fire in the wildlife refuges, including charcoal briquettes and cooking stoves, is prohibited. Also banned are smoking outside of an enclosed vehicle and operation of any motor without an approved and working spark arrester. Fireworks are banned year-round.
Drivers should be careful not to pull off roadways onto long grass.
No major fires have started on Mid-Columbia refuges yet this year, but there have been small fires.
“The wet winter and spring has resulted in significant vegetation growth, and conditions are perfect for the development of devastating wildfires,” said Paul Hiebert, fire management officer at the refuges.
“This week’s high temperatures and low humidity will add to the serious situation we’re already facing, and makes fighting wildfires very dangerous for fire crews.”
The state fire marshal reported there were 240 fireworks-caused fires last year. About 80 percent of all fireworks fires were in wildland and vegetated areas. Damages were around $2.24 million in the wildlands and around $12,555 within city limits.