By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
Just because it rained a little bit doesn’t mean the risk of brush fires has diminished.
Members of four fire departments responded yesterday afternoon to a fire behind a house on the 400 block of Toledo-Vader Road.
“Apparently rubbish in a burn barrel ended up blowing over into some grass and trees,” Lewis County Fire District 2 Chief Grant Wiltbank said.
The wind was fairly strong and the vegetation is still quite dry, he said.
Crews managed to get it under control within about five minutes of their arrival and kept it to less than an eighth of an acre but spent the next 45 minutes extinguishing hot spots such as a smoldering old stumps, according to the chief.
“A couple more minutes and the fire would have been a really difficult fire to contain,” Wiltbank said.
At least a half dozen personnel from the state Department of Natural Resources joined Lewis County Fire Districts 2, 15 and 20, he said.
Burn barrels are not permitted for use in Washington.
Wiltbank said he didn’t know if DNR issued a citation but said another consideration is anyone who starts a fire illegally, even if it’s an accident, will find themselves responsible ultimately if it gets away and burns down someone else’s home or barn.
“Their insurance is not going to cover it,” he said.
Outdoor burning restrictions were put in place earlier this month by the Lewis County Board of Commissioners. Last week, fire chiefs in the county issued a joint request for people to use extra caution, in part because so many firefighters were out of town helping battle wildfires in Eastern Washington.
Wiltbank said whatever precipitation we’ve gotten isn’t going to be absorbed by grass that is dead out there.
“All it takes right now is a spark in tinder dry grass, and away it goes,” he said.
“The flaming bird fell to the ground and caught the grass on fire.”
- District 12 Battalion Chief Jim Fowler
Just two days ago, members of Thurston County Fire District 12 spent about two hours putting out a fire that threatened Beaver Stadium at Tenino High School.
Crews called about 11:40 a.m. to Hogdgen Street and West Garfield Avenue found tall grass burning, which spread into a stack of stored telephone poles.
District 12 Battalion Chief Jim Fowler said it was knocked down by roughly noon, but they then dug about a 200-foot fire line.
The incident was blamed on a bird, now deceased and now dubbed “Little Sparky,” according to Fowler.
It landed on a transmission line, and then ignited, he said.
“The flaming bird fell to the ground and caught the grass on fire,” Fowler said.