A devastating wildfire in Wenatchee. An emergency statewide burn ban. No outdoor fires on Washington state Natural Resources-protected lands. State parks department bans all campfires at state parks and on the ocean beaches Seashore Conservation Area. The list continues to grow as heat and dry conditions continue across the state and the 4th of July comes creeping in.
Late Monday afternoon, June 29, 2015 crews from the Snoqualmie Fire and Fall City Fire Departments and Eastside Fire & Rescue responded to the Mt. Si Golf Course at 9010 Boalch Ave for a reported brush fire, while at the same time numerous nearby residents reported they had lost power.
Snoqualmie Chief Mark Correira said following the initial fire report they were updated that an explosion and power outage had occurred in the area. When Snoqualmie Fire crews arrived at the scene they found a power line on the ground with a brush fire surrounding it.
Corriera said firefighters protected the area for approximately 30 minutes until PSE arrived and disabled the energized power line. Once it was disabled, crews were able to extinguish the fire and wet the area down. The power outage lasted about one hour.
Important Reminder of Dry Conditions, Fire Danger
Chief Corriera said this small fire is a good example of just how dry things are. He commented, “It’s been very busy this year with brush fires.” Last week EF&R reported they had responded to over triple the amount of bark, brush and wildland type fires so far this year.
With the heat, dry conditions and upcoming holiday weekend, the Snoqualmie Fire Department is encouraging residents to attend a public fireworks display and forgo lighting off their own, hoping this year they won’t have to deal with any house fires like the 2014 fireworks-caused fire that destroyed a Snoqualmie home and caused $700,000 in damage. The closest public displays are in Carnation and Bellevue.
The perfect storm of wildfire conditions and holiday fireworks have local fire departments on alert. Chief Correira said both Snoqualmie Police and Fire Departments will be actively out in neighborhoods this 4th of July. They are encouraging people to report any “unsafe acts or if they think a fire has started.”
In addition, residents living near a wilderness area are encouraged to cut back dry grass and create defensible spaces before the holiday weekend. You can learn how to create that defensible area around your home HERE.
Emergency Fireworks Ban Considered?
When asked on Monday if the City of Snoqualmie had considered an emergency fireworks ban due to the record-setting heat and dry conditions, Mayor Matt Larson stated there had been many recent internal discussions, but city officials concluded that “it would be impractical at this late date.”
The mayor explained there is a very limited amount of time to communicate an all-out ban to the public; the Snoqualmie Tribe will continue to sell “copious amounts of fireworks” even with a city ban; and local charities have made significant investments in their pending fireworks sales/stands and have already been issued permits.
Lastly Mayor Larson stated, “Given that sales will continue unabated, our ability to monitor and enforce an all-out ban would be inconsistent and impractical. We simply do not have enough resources.”
According to the City of North Bend, yesterday they were informed by the Association of Washington Cities Risk Management Service Agency that cities and towns cannot enact an emergency, effective immediately fireworks ban because there is no authority in the state fireworks law to do so. The State Fire Marshal’s Office says only the governor can declare a statewide fire danger emergency, which might then allow cities/towns to have the authority to ban fireworks this year.
Via social media, North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing voiced some sentiments similar to Mayor Larson, and that he shares community members’ concerns this year over fireworks – especially the illegal fireworks sold nearby.
Hearing reminded residents that legal fireworks are only legal to ignite on July 4th from 9AM to midnight – and if they see fireworks exploding above ground to call 911.
Mayor Larson said the City of Snoqualmie plans to “ramp up efforts to encourage restraint and responsible use due to the dry conditions.” Warning flyers, signs will be placed at fireworks sales sites and and at key intersections around the city.
In Snoqualmie and unincorporated King County, it is also only legal to set off fireworks from 9AM – midnight only on July 4th. Next year, aerial fireworks will be illegal in Snoqualmie city limits.