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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Very, very, very concerning’: Brush fire Wednesday warning for intense wildfire season

UPDATED: Sat., April 17, 2021

Firefighters work to contain a brush and timber fire in August 2020 that burned its way onto Fairchild Air Force Base. A 13-acre brush fire ran two miles along State Route 27 on Wednesday afternoon near Mica, Wash.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Firefighters work to contain a brush and timber fire in August 2020 that burned its way onto Fairchild Air Force Base. A 13-acre brush fire ran two miles along State Route 27 on Wednesday afternoon near Mica, Wash. (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A Wednesday afternoon brush fire that burned 12.7 acres along State Route 27 is one of several that has some firefighters concerned for the upcoming wildfire season.

As Spokane Chief Brian Schaeffer worked on the fire Wednesday, he looked up and saw snow still covering higher peaks.

“It’s unusual and very, very, very concerning,” Schaeffer said. “This is a precursor to a heightened level of concern for I think everybody in the fire service. This is not normal.”

Schaeffer pointed to the use of aircraft early in the season on the blaze that swept south from Jackson Road down to Darknell, a roughly 2-mile run.

“April is usually a good time for us to start making preparations and talk about wildfire season,” Schaeffer said. “Fuels are cured already. Even though our landscape may appear green, the reality is the fuel’s ready to burn.”

Spokane County District 8 Fire Chief Lonnie Rash said strong winds helped the Wednesday fire spread quickly and jump across the highway.

Multiple agencies, including the Spokane Fire Department, Spokane Valley Fire Department, Spokane County Fire District 9 and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, responded to the fire.

That rapid response was necessary because the burn threatened several homes, Rash said.

Rash said he doesn’t think there have been more brush fires than usual this spring, although strong winds have helped fires spread farther and more quickly.

Snowpack is good , Rash said, but the valleys haven’t received as much moisture.

“Those fine fuels have dried out more quickly, which allows for a little more rapid ground fire spread,” Rash said.

Still, Rash said he hasn’t seen anything this spring that significantly changes his expectations – positive or negative – for the coming fire season.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has imposed a burn ban for much of Eastern Washington. Campfires in dedicated Department of Natural Resources campsites are allowed.

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