Wildfires burned several WDFW wildlife areas and a water access site in Eastern Washington yesterday, and DNR says it is closing all of its recreation lands east of the Cascades for at least the next few days as high fire danger continues across the Northwest.
State wildlife managers say that Labor Day’s myriad fast-moving fires scorched “the majority” of the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area, according to a visual survey with binoculars, as well as portions of the Sagebrush Flat and Wells Wildlife Areas in Lincoln and Douglas Counties, along with the Jameson Lake boat launch site.
The lands host deer and upland bird hunting, as well as provide habitat for rare prairie grouse and their leks.
WDFW spokesman Staci Lehman says that hunters may see some gates or sections closed rather than blanket closures to wildlife areas.
She also advised hunters to check ahead on hunting on private lands open through various access programs, especially in Whitman County.
“Unfortunately, some of those people have had fire go through their properties so we are urging hunters to check first before heading out to hunt,” she said.
Lehman said WDFW is keeping the people of the tiny northern Palouse town of Malden in their thoughts after the Babb Fire burned more than half the homes there.
Meanwhile, DNR says that recreation on Eastside lands it manages will be closed through at least Friday and possibly longer after yesterday’s “historic fire event,” when 58 new fires, including nine large blazes, were driven by high north winds and dry conditions that grounded air assets until last night.
“More than 300,000 acres have burned since Monday, more than twice as many as last year,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, this afternoon.
Most are believed to have human-caused. With state resources maxed out, residents are being urged to be very careful in the outdoors.
Late this afternoon DNR banned all fires on the 12 million acres it provides fire protection on across Washington, a mix of state and other non-other federal public as well as private timberlands.
Last week saw WDFW and DNR close the Wenas Wildlife Area and Green DOT road system there due to the 75,000-acre Evans Creek Fire. It is 70 percent contained.
In Oregon – where the 132,000-acre Beachie Creek Fire sent an apocalyptic plume over Salem, the valley and Central Coast – the White River Fire burned a portion of the wildlife area of the same name east of Mt. Hood last week but is 70 percent contained.
This morning the Willamette National Forest tweeted that all recreation was shut down inside its bounds and as with Malden, much of the community of Blue River appears to have been burned by the Holiday Farm Fire on the McKenzie. Late in the day the Mt. Hood National Forest closed.
The Oregon Marine Board reports that Lane County Parks has “closed many boat ramps along the McKenzie.”
ODFW advised hunters to take note of a tweet from the Siuslaw National Forest that stated, “High winds have increased fire activity and has caused damage to hundreds of trees, impacting many forest roads and campsites. Please use caution, limit travel unless absolutely necessary, and postpone any fire activity.”
Best place to get official updates on fires is Inciweb, but some are so new that there is no information there yet. Local sheriff’s office and county emergency operations manager sites are good resources too.