'Very High' fire danger makes Spokane Co. leaders nervous

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by KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on July 31, 2014 at 8:35 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 31 at 8:35 AM

Spokane, Wash.-- The Department of Natural Resources increased its fire danger categorization to ‘very high’ Wednesday for parts of Stevens, Spokane, Lincoln, and Okanogon counties.

Crews were able to quickly knock down two fires on opposite ends of Spokane County Wednesday as others burned across the state of Washington. Firefighters said the hot and dry weather conditions made them very nervous, as it would not take much to start a major fire.

“We’re still in July, barely, but we’re way ahead of schedule as it pertains to the fire activity in Spokane County,” said Fire Chief Randy Johnson.

Johnson’s firefighters first responded to a fast moving grass fire that destroyed a barn and two outhouses Wednesday afternoon at Mel Walker’s Fruit Ranch on Greenbluff Road.

PHOTOS: Brush fire spreads and destroys Greenbluff barn

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, but Chief Johnson shared a warning with homeowners.

“Even mowing your lawn, mowing weeds around your outbuilding… any kinds of htose power tools or things that can generate a spark,” Johnson explained. “That’s all it takes right now for the grasses, and with a little bit of breeze we have right now it gets ahead of you before you can think about jumping off and grabbing a garden hose.”

Johnson’s crews later responded to another wildfire that started in the southwest part of Spokane County off of Smythe Road.  Firefighters extinguished that fire before it did any damage. Homeowner Mary-Anne Clute said it sent chills up her spine, reminding her of a wildfire that ripped through the rural neighborhood just before the Spokane Firestorm in 1991.

READ: New map shows how record Washington wildfire grew

Chief Johnson said he planned to keep a close eye on the sky during the weekend, in case of possible lighting. While Johnson acknowledged that he cannot do much to prevent the weather, he can do his best to prevent man-made fires.

WATCH: 30 acre wildfire near High Drive human caused

Johnson advised the public to avoid cooking outdoors and thinking twice before using gas-fired appliances.

“Make sure you’re in an approved area and that there are no dry grasses within 30-feet, preferably on anything you’re doing outside.”

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