The fire season jumped out of the starting gate early Saturday afternoon with a 150-acre wildland fire near Downs Lake in the far southwestern corner of Spokane County.
Gusty winds fanned the flames, making it difficult for Spokane County Fire District 3 firefighters to battle the blaze. The fire was contained to Miller Ranch, a hunting ranch located at 25010 W. Martin Road.
“If it wasn’t windy, it wouldn’t have been that bad,” District 3 duty officer Arron Hess said.
The wind and dry conditions prompted the Washington Department of Natural Resources to declare a burn ban for this weekend in Spokane, Stevens and Lincoln counties.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but early indications are that it may be related to shooting firearms, Hess said. Firefighters found no evidence of exploding targets, which sparked a massive fire near Fishtrap Lake last summer.
Brush fires and wildland fires are typically rare this time of year, and a fire this large this early in the season is even rarer, Hess said.
“The last two winters have been very, very mild,” he said. “If things do continue this way it could be a very long (fire) season.”
Firefighters in Stevens County Fire District 1 also responded to a brush fire on Bluebird Way in the Suncrest area Saturday, though it was only about 2 acres in size. The district also responded to a small brush fire about two weeks ago, which caught firefighters by surprise.
“This is the earliest anyone can recall,” the district posted on its Facebook page after the first fire.