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Southeast Washington fire danger rises | Environment

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Southeast Washington fire danger rises
Environment, News
Southeast Washington fire danger rises

The fire danger in southeast Washington and northeast Oregon is getting higher, and officials with the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla National Forests said today that it doesn't look like it is going to improve anytime soon. Vegetation has dried very quickly in July and the long-range forecast is for low moisture and above normal temperatures through September.

Forest officials last week implemented the Phase A public-use restrictions on campfires, smoking, off-road travel, and chainsaws. The restrictions were implemented July 18th due to increased fire danger, hot and dry weather conditions, and concern for public safety.

Phase A is for when fire danger is moderate to high, while Phase B would be for a fire danger rating of high. Phase C would be implemented if the danger were to reach "extreme." Bret Ruby with the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest says he "would say there's a good possibility it would be implemented" if conditions don't change. The last time Phase C was implemented was toward the end of last August, officials say.

Meanwhile, several agencies are prepared to cooperate with the national forests on fires, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington Department of Natural Resources, local rural fire departments, and others. At the district, Ruby says they have multiple resources to help fight the fires including 46 engines, 10 hand crews made up of primarily 10-man crews, two hot shot crews, two rapel crews, one Type-1 helicopter, two limited helicopters, two single-engine air tankers, and 12 lookouts.

The Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center provides updates on fire conditions and incidents for the public on its website (http://bmidc.org/index.shtml). Center Manager, Renae Crippen, predicts it is "going to be a very busy August" and says her agency is ready to respond to assist the firefighters as much as they can."

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