Fires along U.S. Highway 2 in north Spokane County temporarily closed the busy road Tuesday afternoon and led to some brief evacuations.
By evening people living along Pend Oreille Road were back at home.
The first fire broke out between Pittsburgh Street and Farwell Road just north of Spokane for more than two hours Tuesday afternoon.
A large plume of smoke could be seen and flames were visible right next to the highway when the call came in shortly before 1 p.m.
Department of Natural Resources spokesman Guy Gifford said several agencies responded quickly to the fire and were able to get a line around it by 2 p.m.
Firefighters reported seeing single-tree torching, and there was evidence that some flames climbed as high as 20 feet, Gifford said.
The fire was about 2 acres in size and had multiple start points, he said. The cause of the fire, which was near a residential area, is under investigation.
“It’s unusual, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it was anything criminal,” Gifford said.
Fires along roadways, especially roads lined with dry brush, are common and can be caused by anything from a lit cigarette to sparks from a blown tire, he said.
Crews from Spokane County Fire District 9 responded to the scene, assisted by DNR, Spokane County Fire District 4, the Spokane Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Gifford estimated that roughly 40 firefighters were on the scene.
The continued hot and dry weather has raised the fire risk in the area. In response, Spokane County announced Tuesday that they will cease grading dirt and gravel roads in the county until a significant rainfall occurs.
“A single spark from a grader blade could start a fire that destroys a home and surrounding properties,” said county spokeswoman Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter.
Later Tuesday afternoon, the area south of Laurel Road, east of Highway 2 and west of Milan Road was under an evacuation order for several hours.
The orders were lifted at 8 p.m., though the Red Cross kept with plans to open a shelter at Riverside Elementary School at 3802 E. Deer Park-Milan Road.
Firefighters used airplanes and a helicopter to help stop the spread of the large brush fire four miles east of Deer Park along the highway called the Laurel Fire.
Some structures were in danger of burning Tuesday. None were homes.
The fire had been estimated at 57 acres and had a line around it Tuesday night.
Crews from Stevens County Fire District 1, South Pend Oreille Fire and Rescue, Spokane County Fire District 9, Spokane County Fire District 8, DNR and the Bureau of Land Management assisted with the fire.
Staff writers Drew Gerber, Nina Culver and Jonathan Glover contributed to this report
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