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Saturday, January 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Region A Tinderbox Ready To Ignite Warm Weather, Winds Drive Up Fire Danger

It’s a recipe for disaster: temperatures in the 90s, vast slash piles from last year’s ice storm, unpredictable and powerful winds.

“This is just the beginning,” predicted Spokane Valley Fire Chief Pat Humphries.

“It will be a late fire season. We’re going to be facing some major, major concerns.”

A spate of hot weather and low humidity has primed the region for devastating wildfires, he said.

There hasn’t been significant rainfall in the Spokane area since the middle of July. The hottest day of the year was Aug. 3, when the temperature hit 99 degrees.

Fire companies in Spokane County have been on alert for the past couple of weeks, sending twice the usual number of firefighters to all grass and timber fires.

At a fire that burned less than an acre in the Spokane Valley Wednesday, two brush trucks and two engines were dispatched. Usually one brush truck and one engine would respond initially.

“There is so much underbrush out there; we’ve had so much hot weather,” Humphries said. “It has gotten extremely dangerous. We’ll be running extra responses through late fall.”

On Thursday, wind gusts up to 32 mph added to the danger and weren’t letting up as firefighters worked into the night.

“We’ve got a lot of brush and timber in front of us,” said Spokane Fire Marshal Garry Miller. “We’re in serious condition out here. The wind isn’t helping us any.

“The most serious concern we have out here right now is the weather,” Miller said.

Winds are expected to remain steady today, with cooler temperatures and increased humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

Firefighters anticipate that the cooler conditions will allow them to contain the fires by early evening.

To protect homes from wildfires, Humphries recommends residents clear away nearby trees or debris.

“When you have all of that laying around and it catches, then you have these major fires that we’re having,” he said.

Other fire-prevention tips:

Clean debris and pine needles from roofs and gutters.

Keep lawns green.

Don’t use machinery in an area that could spark a fire.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos

Wordcount: 355

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