Scattered brush fires broke out Friday, including a bunch on South Whidbey Island, along I-5 in Snohomish County, and in Seattle, Puyallup and Tacoma.
Firefighters chased afternoon flames Friday in Auburn, on South Whidbey Island, and near the I-5 Stillaguamish River Bridge, among many outbreaks in the state’s parched grasses.
Considering the tinder on the state’s west side, it was fortunate there were no injuries or ruined buildings in outlying areas.
The fires are a reminder of how dangerous this July 4 will be, as temperatures continue to pass 90 degrees in the urban Puget Sound area and break 100 east of the Cascade Mountains.
Near the Whidbey Island town of Freeland, seven fires along a two-mile stretch of Highway 525 merged into one big blaze, said Island County Sheriff Mark Brown. It began shortly after 1 p.m. and took three hours to knock down. As the afternoon ended, fire officials were still searching for whatever ignited the brush, while crews from South Whidbey Fire District doused the last embers, near the local Eagles lodge, he said. Witnesses are asked to call 911.
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In Auburn, a fire reported about 1:40 p.m. grew to 20 acres. Blinding smoke forced the Washington State Patrol to close eastbound Highway 18 at Auburn Way.
“The fire grew quickly as it moved uphill in grass, brush and trees south of Highway 18,” local fire officials said in an update. By around 4:30 p.m., the fire was contained and the road reopened to traffic. Nobody was injured, but one house was threatened, firefighters said.
On I-5 near Arlington, a fire in the median started shortly after 5 p.m. near the Stillaguamish River Bridge, state troopers said. Two northbound lanes were closed for the firefighting, causing temporary backups of over a mile, which cleared by evening.
Smaller brush fires were reported at South Hill in Puyallup, in Tacoma, and there was even smoldering bark in downtown Seattle next to upper Madison Street, and burning brush along Aurora Avenue North.
Firefighters expected chaos, and worry about fireworks. But Gov. Jay Inslee said he lacks legal power to enact a ban, even though some residents clamored for such a declaration. Several cities have permanent local bans or restrictions.
Commissioners in Chelan County, where fire destroyed 29 homes and four business buildings on the outskirts of Wenatchee this week, sidestepped that problem by declaring the entire county a fire emergency zone. Neighboring Douglas County also banned fireworks.
The Sleepy Hollow fire northwest of Wenatchee was 98 percent contained Friday evening, as was the Monument fire in Quincy, just east of the Columbia River in Douglas County.
Campfires are banned on state and federal lands throughout Chelan and Kittitas counties.
Island County has no fireworks bans, something Brown, the sheriff, called a sensitive political issue.
“People need to use common sense with any kind of fireworks or anything that produces flames,” Brown said.