Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has reopened all Department of Natural Resource lands east of the Cascade Mountains to the public.
“I'm so excited," Franz said. "I wish there was a ribbon cutting where we could actually open millions of acres of public lands in Washington State especially right before hunting season, mountain bikers, hikers, and all of our great outdoors men and women can take to them and I'm super excited."
The lands have been closed due to extreme fire danger.
Despite her elation, Franz said public lands are still dry, and reminded the public that a burn ban remains in place.
She says there were 1,750 fires on state lands this summer, covering 650,000 acres. She says aggressive firefighting tactics meant many of those fires were controlled without having to bring in additional resources:
“98% of DNR fires were caught with initial attack this fire season. That's more than 1,100 fires that didn't require a type one two or three incident response to get under control, and more than 93% of those fires were stopped within ten acres," she said.
Franz credits the increased use of aircraft with helping get those fire under control early. She says a funding bill passed by the legislature last spring will mean more firefighting resources as well as increased focus on making forests more resilient.