The danger of wildfire in parks is real.
Because of excessive heat and prolonged dry spell, the state Department of Natural Resources now ranks wildfire risk as “very high/extreme” throughout the south Puget Sound, including Pierce County and neighboring King, Kitsap, Mason and Thurston counties.
In response, Metro Parks Tacoma will prohibit the use of barbecues in Point Defiance Park effective Friday, Aug. 10. No open burning will be allowed, regardless of whether charcoal briquettes or propane are used.
“In Point Defiance Park, we have picnic shelters and barbecues close to old-growth forest,” said Marina Becker, director of parks and recreation for Metro Parks Tacoma. “That’s a wonderful amenity when the fire danger is low, but when the danger is extreme we have to take extra precautions.”
Grilling is still allowed in parks such as Wright Park and Titlow Park. But that’s because the grills tend to be near spraygrounds or watered grass, where the fire risk is much lower. People who grill in these parks are asked to be especially careful, such as by using the silver and red “Hot Coals Only” cans for safe disposal of used coals.
Grilling and open fires are never allowed in Swan Creek, Park, Charlotte’s Blueberry Park, Oak Tree Park and other natural areas managed by the park district.
In Point Defiance Park, a catastrophic wildfire could endanger public safety, destroy forested areas and threaten structures, such as those at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Fort Nisqually Living History Museum. If uncontrolled, fire could spread to adjacent neighborhoods.
“It’s imperative that everyone comply with this ban because conditions are ripe for fire,” said Phedra Redifer, regional parks manager. “We apologize to folks who had planned outdoor barbecues, and hope that all will graciously agree to comply with this emergency measure.”
Metro Parks workers are posting signs at Point Defiance Park, and all stationary grills will be wrapped to prevent use. This weekend’s Brigade Encampment at Fort Nisqually will continue, with safety conditions placed on the use of its traditional fires as living historians recreate the visit of fur traders to the Fort in 1855.
How you can help
Smoking is illegal in Tacoma’s parks. So are fireworks and campfires. And grills and open fires are always illegal in natural areas such as Swan Creek Park and Charlotte’s Blueberry Park.
Point Defiance Park’s 760 acres include hundreds of acres of natural forest including many old-growth Douglas firs and other native species. The park has fire-suppression lines and hydrants, but managers have decided the fire risk is simply too great to chance open burning.
Anyone who witnesses smoking, fireworks or similar activity in Tacoma parks is asked to report it to the Tacoma Police Department. The emergency number is 911. The non-emergency number is (253) 798-4721.