The heavy smoke clouding the air from several regional wildfires is a reminder of how dry the Columbia Basin and the surrounding area truly is. The shrub-steppe habitat of Eastern Washington, with its thick and bountiful sagebrush, is well known for its desert-like environment. Dry conditions are the norm around here. The driest part of the state is found here in the Columbia Basin, which only receives 5-10 inches of rain annually, according to information provided by the state Department of Ecology.
Given the tinderbox conditions, Tuesday’s decision by the Grant County Commissioners to approve an annual summerwide burn ban was wise. The ban is now in effect and limits burning from June 1 through Sept. 30. The burning of yard waste and scrubland are most affected, according to an article in Wednesday’s Herald. State restrictions already exist to cover agricultural burning.
The burn ban was initially proposed to last from June 15 through Aug. 31, but was lengthened to better fit the current fire season. We are glad the timeline was modified and agree the change was much needed. Why risk more smoky days and cloudy skies?
Commissioners listened to a recommendation from area fire officials who were in favor of the lengthened ban and heightened caution.
For most of this week, the air quality has been so poor that many of us curtailed our activities and stayed inside. School children were kept inside from recess and people with certain health conditions were advised to avoid going outdoors. Around town, some workers could be found wearing masks to keep from inhaling the smoke-filled air.
It’s too bad the smoke was so thick because people and animals benefit greatly from sunshine, fresh air and exercise.
The skies are supposed to clear up by Friday. We look forward to cleaner air and a brighter sun. Thank you to the fire officials who recommended a longer burn ban and commissioners who approved it. Being proactive is always the best approach.
— Editorial Board