July 17, 1997 in Washington Voices

Firefighters Wary Of Warmer Weather

Mike Prager And Kevin Blocker S Staff writer
 

While many people were complaining about rain and cool temperatures for most of this summer, Spokane firefighters were loving life.

But firefighters are now bracing for increased fire danger now that temperatures are back to normal.

“I think the August weather will tell us a lot,” said Brian Anderson, deputy chief of Fire District 3.

“I think we are going to see a lot of fires in September and October.”

Anderson said late summer and early fall could be troublesome. That’s when Spokane has had big fire storms in the past.

The cool, wet summer has made life a little easier for Spokane County firefighters.

So far, they haven’t had to put out too many brush or timber fires because the forest and grasslands are still fairly wet.

There was a recent spate of lightning storms that started a few fires, but none of them got out of control, Anderson said.

He said lightning will strike a pine tree and start a fire smoldering at its base, where it is dry. Because of the dampness around the tree, the fire might smolder for most of a day before being noticed.

“This time of year they are not getting big,” he said.

Anderson said grasses are unusually thick because of the rains, and if they ever dry out, they could become a big hazard.

Battling blazes this year could be exacerbated by ice-storm debris still on the ground, said a District 9 official.

Pine needles have fallen on downed tree limbs and branches, and they can add to the hot mix of fuels for a fire, Assistant Chief Jim Graue said.

Unlike grass, which tends to burn for shorter periods, the debris generated from November’s ice storm has the potential to burn longer, Graue said.

“That (ground) material dries the tree above it, which lets the fire climb vertically,” he said. “You’ve got a very serious problem when that happens.”

Graue said there are some simple things merchants and homeowners can do to protect their property.

For example, they can create a “defensible” space around homes or businesses, Graue said. That means clearing ground clutter around trees and bushes.

He said a 15- to 20-foot clearing between vegetation and buildings makes extinguishing blazes and smoke easier for firefighters.

“Clearance and proper trimming will go a long way to protecting buildings,” Graue said.

, DataTimes


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