Wild July keeps area firefighters on alert
Firefighters all over the Spokane area have had a wild July – and not just because of big, devastating fires like Thursday’s blaze in the Joel building downtown or the wildfire earlier this month that destroyed 11 homes in the Valley.
From brush fires to burning cars and mattresses, the summer has been busy for crews in Spokane and Spokane Valley, officials said Thursday. The day before the Joel fire, the Spokane Fire Department posted a list online of the July fires it has investigated – 22 incidents as varied as a cooking fire in a duplex, a house fire caused by a meth lab, and kids burning playground equipment.
“They’ve just been really, really busy in the last two months,” said Bill Clifford, spokesman for the Spokane Valley Fire Department. “It’s the same thing in the Valley. We’re just swamped with all kinds of fires.”
Red Cross volunteers have responded to 19 fires in the Spokane area so far this month, about twice the typical pace, said Margaret Price, spokeswoman for the Inland Northwest chapter. The agency had a truck set up at Thursday’s fire that provided food and water to firefighters.
Typically, the agency focuses on helping people displaced by fires. Price said the agency had 100 volunteers working the Spokane Valley wildfire that started July 10, eventually burning 11 homes and more than 1,000 acres.
Price said the agency has kept up with demand, but it could use donations and volunteers to help with the busy fire season.
“That averages about one (fire) per day, which is definitely big for our chapter,” she said.
Fire officials were busy with the Joel fire Thursday, and statistics comparing this year to past years weren’t immediately available. But Clifford said both the Spokane and Spokane Valley departments have seen surges in fires.
He said his agency has not run into shortages or a budget crunch due to the busy pace.