Vehicle gets stuck in dunes, sparks brush fire in Franklin County

PASCO, Wash. — Franklin County Fire District Number Three is urging drivers to be smart while off-roading after a recent incident in the Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area.

Juniper Dunes is a 19,600 acre area, frequented by visitors to see some of the largest sand dunes in Washington State. There are three parts of Juniper Dunes that have different regulations which govern its use:

  • Wilderness area: off limits to all motorized and mechanized vehicles
  • Open OHV Area: open for OHV use
  • Area of Critical Environmental Concern: OHV limited to trails – however no trails have been established. Franklin County Fire District No. Three said they provide medical response to this area in the event of an injured rider.

On June 8th, at the Juniper Dunes ORV area, officials said a vehicle got stuck while off-roading. As people tried to free the stuck vehicle, one of the cars caught fire.

Franklin County Fire District Number Three said it didn’t take long for the fire to spread to natural vegetation in the area. Officials said with the grasses drying out, the fire easily spread to the Juniper Wilderness area, where absolutely no vehicles are allowed.

They said fire crews were delayed due to the distance and poor trail access and crews had to be shuttled in by emergency UTV’s.

Luckily, a local crop-dusting aircraft in the area in the area was able to slow the fire progression as crews arrived to the scene. They worked with the aircraft, using hand tools to stop progression of the fire; it had already reached over 40 acres.

Fire officials said if you’re going off-roading, it’s important to carry a fire extinguisher and/or a shovel, which may have extinguished the fire in the first place.

They advise drivers to not park or stop a car on top of any brush or grass and to stay on established trails.

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