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Washington Wildfires: Tips for Hikers, Campers

Several wildfires are burning in Central and Eastern Washington, the largest of which is the Mills Canyon fire burning on about 20K acres near Wenatchee and the Entiat Mountains. The fire has prompted evacuations and closed roads that lead to trails in the area.

Update 7.16.14, 9:30 p.m. - A new fire has started in Chiwaukum Creek Canyon on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest off of Hwy 2. Part of the fire is within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Details about the fire are still developing, but as of this evening, large portions of Hwy 2 were closed between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth, and some nearby areas, including the Scottish Lakes High Camp, have been evacuated. Hikers should plan to avoid Chiwaukum Creek Trail and other area trails for now. Drivers should stay informed about highway closures when using these routes, especially Hwy 2.

The Tumwater Campground has also been closed.

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Several wildfires are burning in Central and Eastern Washington, the largest of which is the Mills Canyon Fire burning on about 20K acres near Wenatchee and the Entiat Mountains. The fire has prompted evacuations and closed roads that lead to trails in the area.

Highway 97A between Entiat River Road to Wenatchee remains closed, and the Entiat River Road is open to local residents.

Much smaller fires are also burning in Central and Eastern portions of the state. With high temperatures and dry weather in the forecast, hikers, backpacker and campers will all be a part of preventing human-caused fires.

Safe to hike?

While most hiking trails in the state, have remained unaffected by the Mills Canyon Fire has closed trails (or roads to trails) in the Entiat Mountains, including Keystone Ridge, Lower Mad River Valley and Silver Falls and Larch Lakes. If you are planning a trip to the Entiat, monitor the situation closely and check conditions before you leave.

Tip: If you ever have a question about hiking in a region with an active wildfire, contact or visit a ranger station.

Statewide wildfire prevention: a backcountry refresher

If you're in the backcountry, and especially during high-risk times, it's best to avoid having a campfire altogether. Oftentimes campfires are prohibited above a certain elevation or near certain bodies of water.

If you must have a backcountry fire, follow the Leave No Trace principes:

  • Make sure to check and follow all regulations. In some areas, regulations change depending on the season because of fire danger.
  • Use only established fire rings, keep your campfire small and never leave a fire unattended.
  • Use small pieces of wood gathered only from the ground and never break branches or cut down trees for a campfire.
  • After a campfire is completely out, cool to touch, and all the wood turned to coal, scatter the cool ashes.

For more info check out: Leave No Trace's Minimize Campfire Impacts.

Campfire safety: if it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave

No matter where you're camping, make sure your campfire is built and put out responsibly. (Adapted from guidelines from the Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Hood national forests Fire Staff):

Building a fire

  • Make sure a campfire is allowed. Check to see if there is a burn ban in your county.
  • Find a shady spot away from dry logs, branches, bushes, needles or leaves.
  • Make sure there are no overhanging tree branches near the fire.
  • Use existing fire-rings where it is safe to do so. Don’t build fire-rings in roads.
  • If needed, scoop a small hole to mineral soil in the center of the pit. Set this material aside, and replace it in the ring when the fire is totally out before leaving the area.
  • Place rocks if available around pit. When finished, put rocks back where they were found.
  • Keep campfire rings small and use wood no bigger than the ring.


Enjoying a fire

  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Keep tents and other burnable materials away from the fire.


Putting it out

  • Fires can often creep along the ground slowly burning roots and dead leaves. Days later, the smoldering fire could break out into a real wildfire.
  • When leaving, make sure your fire is dead out. Very carefully feel all sticks and charred remains. Feel the coals and ashes. Make sure no roots are smoldering.
  • Drown the campfire with water and stir charred material.
  • If it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave.

More wildfire resources

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