The skies are bluer over Washington and Oregon, as the former state begins to lift restrictions on some of its public lands following ongoing wildfires that left public lands closed and left miles of clogged roads.
After seeing more than 700,000 acres burn this year, fire restrictions are being lifted on federal public land in 20 of Washington’s eastern counties, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced on Wednesday.
BLM’s Spokane District Office said it lifted fire closures on land it manages in Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman, and Yakima counties. The use of fireworks and incendiary bullets are still prohibited of all federal public lands.
“Caution is advised at all times when operating motor vehicles on roads or trails with vegetation or high grasses, and due to fire hazard risk the public is asked not to bring fireworks or exploding targets onto public lands at any time,” the BLM said in a press release. “The public is also asked to ensure that any campfires are completely extinguished and cold before departure from a camping area.”
Following recent rainfall across the region over the past several weeks, Washington fire crews have just about contained each of its largest fires, including the deadly Cold Springs Fire that killed one person.
At least 181 Washingtonians have lost their homes over the course of this year’s wildfire season, the Washington Department of Natural Resources reported.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported on Wednesday that 7,500 firefighters from 39 states were still working to contain the state’s ongoing blazes.
Six major wildfires are burning throughout the state, down from 10 in just the past two weeks, the ODF reported Wednesday.
The fire perimeters for the Riverside and Beachie Creek Fires alone make up a combined 800 miles in length—which amounts to a one-way trip from Portland and Salt Lake City, Utah.
The two fires have consumed a total of 330,000 acres and were both more than 37% contained as of Wednesday.
Roughly four million acres of Oregon public lands remain partially or totally closed, including the Willamette, Mount Hood, and Umpqua National Forests, which are shuttered to campers.
Law enforcement officials in Marion, Lane, Clackamas, and Jackson counties reported last week that of the dozens of people reported missing from wildfire zones, two remain unaccounted for.
The Oregon Office of Emergency Management reported on Tuesday that nine people have died in Oregon wildfires which have destroyed 1,396 homes.
Air quality warnings are still in effect in southern Oregon where hazardous smoke from California’s rapidly growing wildfires are blackening the sky.
On Wednesday, the Oregon Department of Transportation reported it cleared 197 miles of tree-strewn highways just in the past week while another 47 miles of highway remain closed.
Wildfires in Oregon are already estimated to cost as much as $100 million as state lawmakers likely face a long debate next year over cuts to firefighting resources vetoed by Gov. Kate Brown this month.