by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
6/30/2015 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Wildfires
cost an average of more than $3 billion nationwide every year and far
outweigh the cost of a 50-cent firework over the Fourth of July weekend,
with more than 100,000 wildfires burning an average of four to five
million acres of land nationwide each year and up to nine million acres
in recent years.
There are three conditions required for a wildfire to burn - fuel,
oxygen and a heat source. Lightning, hot winds, fireworks and even the
sun can all provide sufficient heat to spark a fire, but most are the
result of human factors.
"A few weeks ago we responded to a small brush fire started by some kids
playing with matches," said Master Sgt. Andres Steevens, 92nd Civil
Engineer Squadron assistant fire chief, who then explained education is
the biggest way Team Fairchild can play a part. "We're hosting a fire
prevention camp this week primarily for the kids, but the intent is that
these kids' parents have a two-way conversation with their kids so
everyone understands how they play a part in fire prevention."
Fireworks, exploding targets and other pyrotechnic devices are
prohibited in all national forests in Oregon and Washington, banned on
Fairchild Air Force Base and Clear Lake Resort, and in these Spokane
County, Washington, cities: Spokane, Spokane Valley, Millwood, Cheney
and Liberty Lake year-round, regardless of weather conditions or
Increased local restrictions following a burn ban issued by Spokane
County will remain in effect until further notice for any unauthorized
open burning, recreational fires and fireworks in Airway Heights and on
all Washington Department of Natural Resources lands and regions east of
the Cascade Mountains. Call the DNR burning hotline at 1-(800) 323-2876
for more information.
Deer Park employs specific date and time restrictions for the Fourth of
July weekend, July 1 to 4, allowing fireworks from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. For
more information, call the Spokane County Fire District 4 in Deer Park
at (509) 467-4500. Medical Lake will also allow fireworks from 9 a.m. to
11 p.m. only on July 4. The Medical Lake Fire Department cautions users
of the risks associated with fireworks, especially during current
drought conditions. Call the Medical Lake Fire Department at (509)
565-5022 for more information.
Steevens says it's up to each individual to prevent fires no matter where they are.
"We can have fun without being the cause of a thousand-acre fire," he said.
The National Weather Service in Spokane issued a Red Flag Warning
Monday, June 29, citing that critical fire weather conditions are either
occurring now or will shortly due to a combination of strong winds, low
relative humidity and warm temperatures with the potential for
thunderstorms including abundant dry lightning.
"While all of us enjoy fireworks during the summer holidays, federal law
prohibits their use on the National Forests," said Laura Jo West, the
Colville National Forest supervisor in a news release dated June 24.
"Fireworks represent a real threat to our forests especially with the
hot, dry weather we have been experiencing."
West explained that the penalties for violating any fire restrictions is
punishable as a misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 or
imprisonment of not more than six months, or both. The U.S. Forest
Service and Spokane County request forest and park visitors in areas
approved for fires to ensure all fires are extinguished and cold to the
touch before leaving them.
Inversely, according to a news release dated June 26, campfires are
banned in all Washington state parks until further notice due to a Fire
Ban Level 4 - EXTREME. Charcoal or wood fires are not allowed and, as a
further precaution, gas and propane may be used for cook stoves only.
The ban is part of a statewide effort to prevent human-caused wildfires.
This ban includes camping and other forms of recreation at Riverside
State Park such as the Bowl and Pitcher Campground in Spokane.
"As we celebrate our nation's independence this weekend, the Fairchild
Fire Department asks you keep two things in mind," said Steevens.
"First, local firework ordinances for specific cities can be found at
most city halls across the nation. Second, our first responders and our
brothers across the Pacific Northwest have been working tirelessly to
control several wildland fires affecting our area."
"Please celebrate responsibly and help us educate our neighbors," he added.
If you see a fire, report it immediately by calling 9-1-1. Steevens said
the quicker they know of an incident, the faster they can put the fire
"Fires don't just take a toll on the forests, but the first responders
as well. Spend five minutes with any of the first responders after
battling a wildland fire and you'll understand how important fire
prevention really is."
According to Air Mobility Command's safety office, more than 8,000
people are injured by fireworks and grill fires each summer, and more
than half of these injuries occur during the first week of July.
Unfortunately, people aren't the only victims, Steevens said.