June 29, 2012
Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuges Issue Fire Prevention Order
Sue McDonald, (509) 546-8300
Due to summer fire conditions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has imposed a complete ban on activities likely to start a fire on refuges in the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Included in the order are the Hanford Reach National Monument and Columbia, Cold Springs, Conboy Lake, McKay Creek, McNary, Toppenish and Umatilla National Wildlife Refuges. Building any fire, including the use of charcoal briquettes and cooking stoves, is prohibited. Also banned are smoking outside of an enclosed vehicle and operation of any motor without an approved and working spark arrester. Fireworks are banned year-round.
Despite the frequent rain this past spring and early summer, the FWS has already responded to many fires, including a 1,000 acre wildfire at Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. FWS Fire Management Officer, Thomas Skinner, noted that, "The cool, wet spring has resulted in a heavy fuel load, primarily from cheatgrass and other invasive plants. As the vegetation dries out, we're going to have the right conditions for large, fast-moving fires that could be hard to control. It can take decades and millions of dollars to restore shrub-steppe habitats, not to mention the devastating impacts to wildlife."