The state Department of Natural Resources is banning all campfires on lands it manages in much of eastern Washington starting Friday. 

The Department says fire dangers have reached extreme levels in the lower Columbia Basin and are very high across much of the rest of the 17-county region. 

DNR Spokesperson Kenny Ocker says dried out fuels that cause fires are now susceptible to igniting. 

"The risk of anything furthering human caused fires onto the landscape, it would be pretty great at this point," said Ocker. "So, it's safer for the public if we're limiting people to cooking on propane cook tops."  

He says the ban is not an annual requirement but has become commonplace in recent years. 

"Every year we've had to limit campfires in the southeast region at some point," Ocker said. "It's becoming part of our land management each summer out there." 

DNR classifies the area under the ban as the Southeast Region, although it includes Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Kittitas counties in North Central Washington. 

In fact, DNR’s Southeast Region is headquartered in the Kittitas County city of Ellensburg. Within this region, DNR manages nearly 900,000 acres of state trust and conservation lands. 

The ban on campfires does not restrict the use of propane or butane camp stoves and backpacking stoves, which are still allowed. 

DNR says the restriction is a critical step to reduce potential wildfire ignition sources as fire dangers continue to stay elevated.  

In a Thursday release, the agency said fuels across Eastern Washington are drying out quickly, with a warming trend combining with rapidly dropping live fuel moistures.  

The release noted that an increase of fires in forested areas east of the Cascades indicates that the area is entering the heart of fire season in the Pacific Northwest. 

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