Community Environment Government Police & Fire

Burn ban begins Saturday in unincorporated Pierce County

Posted on May 28th, 2024 By:

A burn ban for unincorporated Pierce County will take effect at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 1, until further notice.

The ban last year ran from June 6 to Oct. 3. In 2022, after one of the coldest springs on record, a burn ban wasn’t enacted until Aug. 5. In 2021, burning was again prohibited early, on June 25. In 2020, it began on July 30.

The Pierce County Fire Marshal, backed by the Pierce County Fire Chiefs Association, declared the ban because warmer, drier days are expected to become more common and result in fires starting more easily and posing a greater threat to people and property.

A hot, dry spring sparked last year’s early burn ban. That hasn’t been the case this year.

Several factors weighed

“Spring has been cool and wet, but we’re going to see these drier days coming which means a lot of this vegetation is going to dry out quickly and become a fire hazard,” said Mike Halliday, spokesman for Pierce County Emergency Management.

Fire agencies have responded to more wildfires the past several years, like a couple last August, Halliday said. One at a Lakewood mobile home park killed two men and destroyed nine homes, displacing 23 people. Another at Fort Steilacoom Park burned 10 acres. Closer to home, a June blaze scorched 2 acres along eastbound Highway 16 between Olympic and Wollochet drives. One person suffered smoke inhalation and a dog was badly burned.

“We’re thinking about those instances as well when these (burn ban) decisions are being made,” Halliday said.

The state Department of Natural Resources measures moisture in vegetation and shares the results.

“That’s a factor in taking these measures and putting these bans in place, especially as it gets later into summer,” Halliday said.

Recreational and cooking fires OK

But don’t fret. You’ll still be able to fire up the barbecue or toast marshmallows over the campfire during this weekend’s Maritime Gig Festival, and beyond. The burn ban applies only to land clearing and burning of yard debris.

The ban doesn’t apply to small recreational fires in fire pits at approved campgrounds or on private property.

Recreational fires must be built in a metal or concrete pit; grow no larger than 3 feet in diameter; be at least 10 feet from vegetation, 25 feet from structures and 20 feet from overhanging branches; always be attended by somebody with hand tools, a turned-on hose or two 5-gallon buckets of water; and not burning in winds of over 5 mph.

The use of gas, propane, charcoal or pellet self-contained stoves, smokers and barbecues are also allowed.

Stage 2 burn bans, often issued in August, do affect recreational fires, but not barbecues.

The ban doesn’t apply to setting off legal fireworks during the allowed discharge times, which are between 10 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. on July 4, and between 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 and 1 a.m. on Jan. 1. Fireworks are banned inside Gig Harbor city limits.