Despite recent rain, fire officials still concerned with dry weather

Rain may have been in the forecast this week but the risk of fire danger is still out there according to Kitsap County Fire officials.

Kitsap County fire chiefs and the Kitsap County Fire Marshal are keeping a close eye on “fuel moisture” content and weather forecasts, as it relates to outdoor burning, fireworks and other activities that could increase the fire danger. Possibly going as far as considering an earlier-than-normal burn ban.

The “fuel moisture” level determines how easily vegetation will burn. The size and type of vegetation determines how quickly it responds to changes in the weather.

For example, the moisture level in grasses can change rapidly. Whereas the moisture level in larger trees and branches can change more slowly and are not easily impacted by a single day of rain or sunshine. It is these larger fuels that are significantly drier this year.

Kitsap County Fire Marshal Dave Lynam said, “It can be deceiving because even though you still see green, under the surface of that plant it is really very dry.”

Information on personal fireworks restrictions can be found at kitsapgov.com/dcd/Pages/Fireworks.aspx.

City of Poulsbo ordinance allows for the fire chief to restrict or ban fireworks in city limits, under extreme weather conditions.

“I will be evaluating fuel moisture conditions, and the current and projected weather, to determine if a fireworks restriction or ban is necessary,” Poulsbo Fire Chief Jim Gillard explained. “I am not looking for an excuse to ban fireworks, nor will I hesitate to do so if conditions warrant it.”

If necessary, a temporary restriction on fireworks within the City of Poulsbo would likely mirror those recently implemented by the Kitsap County Commissioners.

“The county ordinance restricting the types of fireworks allowed is a reasonable step in reducing the risk of fire due to the drier conditions,” Gillard said. “We understand that varying rules between jurisdictions is problematic, and increases the burden placed on law enforcement agencies to enforce the regulations.”

In Washington, there are legal consequences for damages caused by irresponsible firework use, ranging from being charged with malicious mischief to assault or a gross misdemeanor for possession of illegal explosive devices such as fireworks that have been tampered with or altered.

A gross misdemeanor can bring a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a year in prison. Possession of illegal explosive devices, such as M-80’s, M-100’s and larger, altered fireworks, and public display mortars, is a federal offence.

Beyond the criminal consequences related to illegal fireworks, individuals can be held personally responsible for damages caused by the misuse of fireworks.

In a release sent out to locals, the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s office reminded fireworks purchasers to remember the “Three B’s” of fireworks safety:

• Be prepared – Have water nearby and put pets indoors

• Be safe – Only adults should light fireworks.

• Be responsible – Do not use while impaired, clean up firework debris, and soak spent fireworks in water.

To reduce the chance of fire around your home, the State Fire Marshal’s Office suggests individuals make their homes and property Firewise:

“Within 30 feet of the home – plant fire-resistant vegetation. Water plants and trees regularly to ensure that they are healthy and green. Mow the lawn regularly. Prune shrubs and cut back tree branches, with the lowest branches around 6-10 feet high. Branches should not overhang any part of your home. Within 30 to 100 feet from the home – any trees should be spaced 20-30 feet between crowns to prevent fire spread. Plant in small, irregular clusters or islands. Separate shrubs by at least two-times their mature height. Create fuel breaks, such as driveways, gravel walkways and lawns.”

For those who wish to forego their own fireworks displays, professional displays can be found throughout Kitsap on the following dates:

• June 29 – Bremerton Bridge Blast, Manette

• July 3 – Liberty Bay, Poulsbo

• Fourth of July – Kingston Waterfront

• Fourth of July – Port Orchard Waterfront

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