Local fire danger spikes in dry heat

Officials say avoid any outdoor burning

By Patty Hastings and Paul Suarez



Protect your home from wildfire

• Remove tall, dry grasses and leaves near the house.

• Remove leaves, needles and other debris from your roof and gutters.

• Remove "ladder fuels" that allow fire to move from lower vegetation to taller fuels. Provide separation between vegetation layers, such as brush and trees.

• Move firewood and combustible debris at least 30 feet away from the house.

• Remove dead and overhanging branches near the house.n Prune excess growth and dead material from brushes and shrubs.

Source: Clark County Fire Marshal Jon Dunaway

Fire crews were on edge Thursday as warm temperatures, low humidity and high winds combined to increase the fire danger in Southwest Washington.

The cities of Camas, Washougal and Vancouver issued a total ban on recreational fires midday Thursday. Cooking outdoors in approved charcoal or propane barbecues is still allowed.

Although recreational fires under 3-by-3-by-2 feet are still allowed in Clark County, Fire Marshal Jon Dunaway urged residents not to have private fires until the weather improves. Small, unattended fires are likely to escape outdoor fireplaces and spark a fire in dry grass.

"The potential for a significant grass or brush fire is very high," Dunaway said in a release. "We are especially concerned about residents living at the edge of urban areas, where houses are in areas of steep slopes and forest-like vegetation."

In July, the Southwest Clean Air Agency issued a burn ban for all outdoor fires, including residential and land-clearing burns, through Oct. 1. A red flag warning from the National Weather Service also remains in effect for Clark County and other parts of Southwest Washington.

Although the County issues a burn ban each summer, and the area typically sees several days where fire danger is high, the burn bans can be extended if dry weather conditions persist.

Pearson Field went 51 consecutive days without measurable rain before the dry spell ended Monday with 0.04 inches of rain.

Capt. Dave James of the Vancouver Fire Department said those few drops didn't help matters much. Although grass and twigs absorb moisture quickly, they also dry out quickly. These combustible materials need longer periods of rain to become fire resistant, James said.

"Things are definitely very dry out there. You add east wind to high temperatures and you have the potential for a very serious fire," said Vancouver firefighter-paramedic Kevin Stromberg.

In several cases Thursday, the threat of fire materialized.

Vancouver grass fire

Clark County Fire District 6 responded to a 20-by-20-foot grass fire at 8509 N.E. Eighth Ave., next to Interstate 5, around 4:17 a.m. Crews were able to extinguish the fire. Three shopping carts were damaged in the fire, said David Taylor, assistant chief for Fire District 6.

Washougal barn fire

Fire destroyed a barn Thursday afternoon at 142 Collins Road in Washougal. When Fire District 4 arrived around 1:30 p.m., the barn was engulfed in flames, causing the ceiling and walls to collapse.

With winds blowing hard, two spot fires started in the nearby field, and fire licked the edging on a house that was 75 to 100 feet away, said Fire District 4 Chief Chris Fuller. About 30 firefighters from Fire Districts 4 and 5 arrived, along with East County Fire & Rescue, Skamania County EMS and the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

The crew quickly extinguished the fire and put foam on the remnants of the barn to make sure it didn't rekindle.

Cougar brush fire

East county firefighters midday Thursday extinguished a brush fire on the northeast shore of Lacamas Lake.

The fire was reported just after 11 a.m. at 900 S.E. Leadbetter Road.

Crews with the Camas-Washogual Fire Department received assistance from the Vancouver Fire Department and East County Fire & Rescue.

Crews doused the flames but not before it burned a few acres, said Camas-Washougal Chief Nick Swinhart. It was hard to extinguish immediately because it moved into trees and heavy brush, he said.

A crew remained on scene through the afternoon to make sure the fire didn't rekindle, Swinhart said.

No structures were burned or threatened by the flames.

Hit-and-run turned grass fire

A vehicle traveling south on Interstate 205 hit another vehicle as while exiting to westbound State Route 14, throwing out sparks and kindling a slow-moving 300-by-40-foot grass fire on the side of the freeway, according to Stromberg.

The driver of the vehicle that was hit was not injured, but the driver of the other vehicle fled the scene. The Washington State Patrol and Vancouver Police Department are investigating this incident and trying to locate a suspect.