The National Weather Service has issued a warning that conditions may be ideal for wildfires to sprout before the weekend begins.
The Red Flag Warning will be in affect until about 8 p.m. Friday evening, the NWS tweeted. Strong winds are expected throughout the afternoon, with gusts up to 30 mph.
Spokane-area residents awoke early Friday morning to a short thunder and lightning storm that struck ground about 15 to 16 times, said weather service meteorologist Joey Clevenger.
The southwesterly storm hit Spokane County at about 3:30 a.m., sending bolts of lightning down on Spokane’s South Hill, north of Otis Orchards and west of Mead in the Newman Lake area.
A lightning strike from the storm is considered responsible for starting a 15-acre fire on the Colville Indian Reservation near Lake Roosevelt. Fire officials estimated Friday that the small blaze burning in the wilderness away from structures should be contained by the end of the day.
Three separate small fires were also reported Friday morning near Spokane Valley, said Greg Rogers, fire marshall for the Spokane Valley Fire Department.
Two were quickly extinguished, while one near Liberty Lake Regional Park was still burning Friday morning, though officials said it was about an acre in size.
Though the fires began just as the lightning storm rolled through the area, Rogers wasn’t ready to rule on an official cause.
“I can’t say the storm caused these until the investigation is complete,” he said.
While thunder and lightning storms in the Inland Northwest have been a rarity in recent years, the weather service says late July and early August are typically when storms of that nature should be expected.
Last week, a powerful storm led to widespread power outages and several fires as the Spokane area was bombarded in an hour-long flurry of lightning.
Several homes were burned or damaged during the storm, in addition to multiple trees that fell or exploded after being struck.
Staff writer Rebecca White contributed to this report.
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