September 11, 2011 in City

Hangman Valley fire spares dozen homes

Residents evacuated before blaze controlled
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Spokane firefighters from Station 14 watch an aircraft drop retardant on a burning hillside at the Baltimore Road fire Saturday near Hangman Valley Golf Course.
(Full-size photo)

More dry weather

The dry weather pattern isn’t expected to let up anytime soon in Spokane. Today’s forecast is sunny and dry with a high of 93 degrees. Monday’s high is expected to be around 90, with a high of about 86 on Tuesday. Temperatures should begin to drop into the 70s later in the week.

A burn ban is in effect on all Department of Natural Resources lands and in Spokane.

Crews from multiple agencies battled a brush fire that threatened several homes near the Hangman Valley Golf Course on Saturday afternoon.

Twelve houses were threatened by the blaze, which officials say started about 3:15 p.m. and burned four to six acres. Residents of Littler Drive and Player Drive were evacuated as a precaution, said James Hartley, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, and Hangman Valley Road was reduced to one lane.

“I came out and saw billows of smoke,” said resident Mark Wilkerson. “It was burning out of control at that point.”

By about 6 p.m., though, crews had knocked down the fire. Despite some close calls, no injuries were reported and only some small outbuildings were damaged. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

At one point, the fire crested a hill and came within about 50 yards of a home.

“I saw 20-foot flames,” said homeowner Lori Smetana. “That’s what it looked like. It was pretty scary looking.”

Neighbor Tom Maine saw it crest the hill, too.

“It was just a wall of fire coming up over the hill,” he said. “It moved quick.”

Hartley said crews from multiple agencies responded, including city of Spokane fire, fire districts 8 and 3, Turnbull Wildlife Refuge and DNR. Tankers dropped water and retardant on the fire as crews flanked it with fire lines.

Residents pitched in, too, dousing a field of extremely dry brush to keep the fire from spreading, and warning neighbors of the danger. Luckily, they said, the grass recently had been cut short so the field could be used as a parking lot for a wedding.

“Otherwise the grass would have been longer and we would have had more of a problem,” Wilkerson said.

Weather conditions in the area could be described in three words: hot, dry, breezy.

“It’s obviously warm and dry. Humidity is down,” Hartley said. “This wind doesn’t help out at all.”

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