Nice, sunny days ahead could also mean more wildfire concerns

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U.S. Forest Service photo.

The Forest Service on Friday lifted its ban on campfires in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and at the same time reopened trails that have been closed for weeks because of the Chikamin Fire.

That would seem to indicate an end to the devastating fire season in North Central Washington, but forest officials warn the danger is still there.

“As we begin to receive these fall storms, there is often a sense that the fire danger has passed,” said Acting Forest Service Fire Management Officer Mike Davis. “However, as the warmer and drier temperatures return (this week) it won’t take long for the lighter fuels to dry out. … Please continue to be cautious.”

Davis said shorter daylight hours, cooler temperatures and some rain and snow in the Cascades led them to life the campfire ban.

Fire officials have pointed to a brush fire last week that came on the heels of the area’s first significant rain of the summer as evidence of the continuing fire danger.

A powerline failure is believed to have started the fire, which burned about 100 acres along the Columbia River in Douglas County and forced the temporary closure of Strahl Canyon Road. .

“The fire burnt well considering the rain we received (Wednesday),” the Grand Coulee Volunteer Fire Department said. “But the winds dried out the grass and shrubs and pushed the fire along the breaks above the Columbia River.”

It took firefighters about four hours to get the fire extinguished. No structures were damaged.

The Chikamin Fire has been burning on a remote hillside north of Plain since late July and led to the closure of numerous popular trails, including the Upper Mad River Trail.

Because of limited firefighter access, the Forest Service said earlier it likely would burn until seasonal snow and rain arrived.