Area fire officials have reported a big increase in brush fires, amid unusually dry, warm conditions that aren’t expected to change for at least two more months.

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To talk about an increase in brush fires, the Seattle Fire Department scheduled a news conference Wednesday morning at Discovery Park. It got off to a late start, however — because of a brush fire in Discovery Park.

With a burning example just down the street, Seattle fire officials said 225 brush fires have been reported in Seattle from June 1 through July 21, a 178 percent increase from the same time last year.

Area fire officials have reported a surge in brush fires, amid unusually dry, warm conditions that aren’t expected to change for at least two more months. The Tacoma Fire Department responded to 199 more outdoor fires since June 1 this year during the same stretch in 2014. By July 1, the Bellevue Fire Department had responded to more brush fires than it had all of last summer.

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“We’ve seen conditions here that we haven’t seen in the past,” said Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins.

While precautionary measures against brush fires are usually associated with Central and Eastern Washington, residents west of the Cascades need to be thinking about how they can prevent the fires, which start quickly and spread easily, Scoggins said.

“We can’t let down our guards just because we live in the city,” he said.

Dry or dead grass should be cut down to 6 inches or less, according to Scoggins. Anything that could catch fire easily should be removed at least 10 feet from a structure.

“Clearly this is not a good time to be careless with sources of ignition,” said Bellevue Fire Department Deputy Chief Mark Moulton. “Many of us have pretty dry lawns now, and if the lawns are fairly short, it’s not a huge deal, but if you have tall grass next to a structure, that’s a problem.”

Snohomish County Fire District 4 Deputy Chief Michael Gatterman said his department, which covers the central part of the county, has battled more, and larger, fires this year. Central Pierce Fire and Rescue called the number of fires in the past few weeks unprecedented, “due to dry conditions, fireworks and carelessness.”

A brush fire that started Friday when someone threw out a hand-rolled cigarette in Puyallup spread to a storage facility and destroyed 121 units, according to Central Pierce Fire & Rescue.

Departments take various approaches to battling brush fires. Snohomish County District 4 owns brush trucks, which have a small tank and pump as well as four-wheel drive, to get to hard-to-reach areas. Certain firefighters in some departments such as Seattle and Bellevue have incident-qualification cards, known as Red Cards, which certifies them for wildland firefighting after training.

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“This makes us better prepared for whatever we might have to deal with,” Moulton said.

Brush fires also require different strategies. In house fires, firefighters attack the blaze at its center, while a brush fire requires establishing and then attacking the perimeter.

“In a building, the center could worsen; when it burns across grass, once it’s burned, it burns out,” Seattle fire Battalion Chief Ron Mondragon said. “The worry is about it spreading.”

With dry conditions forecast through September, the departments don’t see the higher-than-average numbers dwindling.

“It’s very predictable that when conditions are this way, these types of fires are going to occur,” Tacoma fire spokesman Joe Meinecke said.

Wednesday was no different: In Seattle, firefighters responded to four brush fires and four beauty-bark fires. A fire on the hillside of southbound Interstate 5 near Northeast 130th Street burned a 200- by100-foot section of brush that extended to a tree and concrete barrier. Five engines extinguished the fire an hour later.

“These conditions are going to be around for a while,” Scoggins said. “We need to be prepared for that.”

Preventing brush fires

• Clear leaves and debris from the roof, gutters, porches and decks.

• Remove dead vegetation from under the deck and porch and within 10 feet of a house.

• Remove flammable wood piles, propane tanks away from homes and garage structures.

• Prune trees away from homes.

• For homes adjacent to large areas of greenbelt, consider defensible space between home and landscaping.

• Either keep lawn hydrated or cut it if it’s dry.

• Practice an evacuation plan out of your home and out of your neighborhood.

Source: Seattle Fire Department