NCW — Oh what a difference a little rain can make.
The last of the region’s major wildfires — once managed by large interagency teams overseeing hundreds of firefighters — have now been turned back over to local agencies and ranger districts.
Gov. Chris Gregoire lifted the burn ban in western Washington, and will decide today whether to lift the ban at midnight today for eastern Washington.
And the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is also considering allowing campfires after banning them in all but a few places on the forest.
That doesn’t mean the danger of wildfire has passed. “The rain helped cool things down,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Robin DeMario. But while some places experienced a nice, wetting rain, other areas — like the Tonasket Ranger District — didn’t get enough to dampen the earth.
“All the other districts got some measurable precipitation over the weekend,” DeMario said, leading her to feel confident at least some of the campfire restrictions now in place will be loosened today.
Meanwhile, districts across the national forest have delayed fall prescribed burning, and it’s unclear whether the Forest Service will get an opportunity during the slim window when things aren’t too dry, and aren’t too wet, to conduct low intensity burning in order to reduce the amount of fuels and boost forest health.
Smoky skies, extremely dry conditions in the woods, and the workload caused by ongoing fire suppression and rehabilitation efforts will all factor in when each district decides what types of prescribed burn treatments will occur this fall, a Forest Service news release said.
The Tonasket and Methow Valley ranger districts are currently considering possible prescribed burning in late October or early November, if conditions are right.
But whether any other districts even consider burning remains to be seen.
“People are very sensitive to smoke, and with good cause. We’ve had so much of it this summer,” DeMario said.
She said each district will determine for itself whether the benefits of prescribed burning this fall outweigh other factors — like the smoke issue.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512