A series of relatively small wildfires have flared up in Klickitat County over the past 10 days, and residents and those responsible for fighting the fires are concerned about the threat of a serious blaze.
With weather conditions still very dry, Al Lawson, fire supervisor for the West Klickitat District of the Washington Department of Natural Resources, said the burn ban on all DNR lands has been extended through Oct. 31.
At least two of the recent fires have been determined to be caused by hunters, and Lawson cautioned hunters to be careful, especially with smoking.
"What's going on is, it's so dry the hunters are not moving around, crunching around," Lawson said. "Hunters are tending to sit in one place and wait for animals, so if they're smoking, they're not doing it carefully."
Here are details of the three recent fires in the area;
Red Vine Fire: Started Oct. 13 on Timberhead Mountain, at the top of Buck Creek. Five acres burned, and helicopters and air tankers were called in. DNR, U.S. Forest Service, and Cherry Lane Fire Department assisted. Determined to be hunter-caused; "either cigarette or pipe," Lawson said.
Quickline Fire: Started Oct. 16 in the upper Snowden area. One acre burned. Responded to by fire units from Lyle, High Prairie, Appleton, DNR, and U.S. Forest Service. Likely cause: Hunter smoking.
Shooter Fire: Started Oct, 19 east of Glenwood. Less than one acre. Responded to by Glenwood Fire Department and DNR crews. Direct cause undetermined, although multiple spent shotgun shells were found at the site.
Lawson said some hunters were also starting campfires in the woods.
"We've found a smattering of campfires, despite the burn ban," Lawson explained. "We had four hunter campfires, and we cited those responsible."
Lawson said some of the hunters from out of the county have claimed not to know there is a burn ban on.
"It's amazing to me to hear that, as dry as it is, and we're not very sympathetic," Lawson said. "They get the citation first and they can argue with the judge."
Those cited for violating the burn ban pay a $250 fine.
"And if the fire escapes, they can be held responsible for all costs of fire suppression. Our direction has been to bill on those, and we investigate aggressively," Lawson said.
Residents living in the dry countryside are worried that a fire might get out of hand, costing someone their home.
"The message to hunters is, be careful, it's still hot and dry out there," said Snowden resident Sherry Penney. "The timber companies have been nice enough to let us on their land to hunt, but we need to be even more careful now. Hunters are probably closer to homes than they realize."
Penney said her house was about a quarter-mile from where the Quickline Fire started.
"We can't thank DNR enough for their support and for coordinating the firefighting efforts," she said.
Alice Coop, who lives near Willard -- not too far from the Red Vine Fire -- was also appreciative of DNR's efforts.
"They need applause," said Coop. "They were fast and got right on it. It was awesome what they did to put that fire out."
Pete Peterson, fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service in Hood River, said the cooler weather around the region lately has helped, but danger remains high.
"It's a bit better. But we still haven't had the moisture. All indices are still at extreme levels, but at least the days are shorter and the humidity keeps dropping back," Peterson said. "Most of these recent fires have been relatively small, but the potential to be severe is there if winds pick up."