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Rain Helps Chattaroy Fire Crews Burning Barrel At Rifle Range Likely Cause; Mop-Up Continues

A 120-acre fire near Chattaroy that spawned several flaming, 50-foot-high whirlwinds was still being mopped up on Sunday.

Firefighters were aided by rain and cool weather, but it could be the end of the week before crews stop patrolling the area of Owens and Perry roads, said Ed Lewis, District 4 fire chief.

There were roughly 60 firefighters, mostly with the Department of Natural Resources, mopping up on Sunday, Lewis said.

“The rain was a good reprieve. But unless it continues for quite a few days it’s not the end of the fire season by any stretch,” he said.

The Saturday fire is the third to burn more than 100 acres in the Spokane area in the past two weeks. Two fires on Aug. 14 charred a total of 1,970 acres near Tum Tum and Newkirk Road.

The Chattaroy fire appears to have started from a burning barrel at a rifle range just west of Perry Road, Lewis said.

The fire is being investigated by the DNR. As of Sunday, no one had been blamed for starting the fire, Lewis said.

No homes were destroyed, although three outbuildings were ruined, Lewis said. He knew of no injuries or fatalities from the fire.

About 130 firefighters responded on Saturday. They came from the DNR, the city of Spokane and county fire districts 3, 4, 8 and 9, Lewis said.

An abundance of broken limbs and trees from last November’s ice storm gave the fire extra fuel. Fortified, the blaze was able to form its own hot wind and change directions several times, he said.

As the fire crossed Perry Road, several fire funnels formed.

“It’s like a dust devil, but actually made of fire,” Lewis said. “It is pretty spectacular stuff. Several were 50-feet tall.”

, DataTimes