Yesterday, while visiting the Red Apple Fire, Commissioner of Public Lands  Hilary Franz announced that, due to extreme fire danger and ongoing drought, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources is temporarily closing all recreational and public access to DNR-managed lands in eastern Washington beginning 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 23.

This temporary closure will apply to DNR-managed state lands, conservation areas, community forests and any associated roads, trails, campgrounds, recreational sites, or recreational facilities.

The Red Apple Fire alone has burned over 12,000 acres. Across Washington, over 900 fires have burned more than 140,000 acres.

“This summer is smashing all our records and leaving the state bone dry, leaving eastern Washington to face an ongoing, tremendous risk of wildfire,” said Franz, the elected official who oversees DNR. “Over the past year and a half, we have been reminded just how important our public lands are, so closing them is not a decision we take lightly. But with the drought leaving the region as dry as ever we must do all that we can to prevent human-caused fires.

“Our firefighters are already stretched thin fighting major fires across our state. We must take reasonable steps—and make sacrifices—in order to protect them and our communities.”

DNR decided to close recreational and public access to its managed lands in eastern Washington based on a number of factors, including current extreme hot and dry conditions, a forecast that shows no meaningful precipitation in the near future, current fuel loads, and a concern for public safety.

After a late-June heat wave that shattered many all-time temperature records across Washington, the vast majority of the state is currently in a drought emergency. Additionally, the number of fire ignitions in the state is approximately double the 10-year average, with months of fire season still to go. In all areas of eastern Washington, fire danger is at very high or extreme levels.

DNR staff will continually monitor conditions, and a reopening date for recreation access will be determined once these factors improve.

The decision to close recreation and all public access on DNR-managed lands east of the Cascades is in addition to the burn ban that Commissioner Franz enacted earlier this month on the 13 million acres of forestlands under DNR fire protection. The burn ban will remain in effect through at least September 30. Campfires also remain banned on DNR-managed lands statewide due to ongoing fire danger.

“Restricting recreational access is something we only do in the most serious of circumstances,” said Angus Brodie, deputy supervisor for state uplands. “However, safety is always our top priority and right now it’s not safe for people to be out on the landscape. We look forward to reopening as soon as the danger recedes.”

DNR joins the Umatilla National Forest and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in closing lands in eastern Washington to public access.

Anyone who spots a wildfire should call 911 to report it as soon as possible.

Get the map of DNR’s regions at www.dnr.wa.gov/about/dnr-regions-and-districts. To get updates on recreation openings and closures, visit dnr.wa.gov/open.