The fire hazard designation for Chelan County is now listed as "very high", which is the second highest designation behind "extreme"

The level was raised Friday, which county Commissioner Kevin Overbay says is allowed prior to the commission's approval.

"We did change the code to allow the sheriff, the public works director, and/or the Fire Marshall to go ahead and, basically, make that notification or make that change," said Overbay.

Commissioners unanimously approved the changes Monday, which are not directly connected to the current Excessive Heat Warning in place for most of the area.

It was instead the result of a consensus decision on the part of all the county fire districts who meets once a week with the county Fire Marshall on Tuesday. Their joint decision goes into effect on Fridays.

The fire hazard designation was raised from "high" to "very high" in both the Chelan County Valley and Mountain Zones, which includes all unincorporated lands within the county.

County spokesperson Jill FitzSimmons says the stepped-up level means there’s more restrictions on open flame devices. “That means you can’t operate a device that may cause or start a fire,” said FitzSimmons. “You can’t operate one now outside.”

Outdoor fires on private residential property or designated campsites are still allowed as long as they’re built in a permanent barbecue, portable barbecue, outdoor fireplace, or grill.

Stage 1 restrictions are also now in place, which is the lowest of three levels for restraints on activity and use of devices and locations that are prone to fire danger.

The restrictions don’t noticeably elevate until Stage 2 is enforced, when barricades are placed at the intersection of county roads.

The county is continuing to use the four-tier scale to rate wildfire risk it already had in place.

The additional three-tier scale is new for the current fire season. It's meant to help align the county’s risk assessments with its state and federal partners, and to give the commissioners a new option when conditions become extremely hazardous.

Wildfire hazard levels traditionally increase as the season progresses.

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