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Posted on Jun 6, 2016

Wildfire season has arrived

After a busy weekend of battling three separate blazes, including a 2,000-acre wildfire near the Gorge Amphitheatre, the local fire chief warns that area conditions are ripe for wildfires.
“If you get a spark and you get wind, you’re going to have a significant event,” said Chief Don Fortier of Grant County Fire District No. 3.
While the holiday weekend started off relatively quiet for emergency responders, by Sunday afternoon three fires that started in the Quincy Valley had the local fire district calling for aid from not only neighboring agencies but also state mobilization resources.
On Sunday afternoon, firefighters from Grant County Fire District No. 3 initially responded to an outside fire in the 9,000 block of Road J.4 Northwest. That fire burned between 20 and 30 acres, Fortier said.
However, at about 3 p.m., crews received calls of a larger wildfire burning three miles south of the Gorge Amphitheatre. It was being called the Sunland Fire.
The fire reportedly was started by a campfire that boaters lit when stopped along the shore of the Columbia River, Fortier said.
Boat launches and trails in the area went to an immediate evacuation status. Ten homes were considered threatened, and were on a Level 2 — be ready to leave at a moment’s notice — status.
An all-county page was sent out to every fire department and district in Grant County. Resources from Chelan and Douglas counties also responded. The state mobilization resources were called in for the Sunland Fire.
That fire burned 2,025 acres, Fortier said on Tuesday. Crews were monitoring the burned area on Tuesday for hot spots or flareups but saw no fire activity, he said.
As firefighters were responding to the second fire, a third was reported after 6 p.m. in the 8400 block of Road 10 Northwest, about six miles east of Quincy.
The Grant County Fire Marshal’s Office reports the cause of that fire is under investigation.
The third fire burned about 40 acres and consumed a travel trailer, two sheds and two vehicles. Fortier said firefighters saved several homes that were threatened when the blaze turned into a grass fire pushed by wind.
One firefighter suffered a knee injury trying to stop the blaze and was taken to a local hospital, the fire chief said.
Fortier said that most wildfires in Grant County can be prevented. That’s because few wildfires in the county are caused by lightning strikes. Most are started accidentally by people, he said.
“And most of the time it is just doing stupid stuff, like starting a fire to roast hot dogs” along the Columbia River, he said.
Fortier warns that people need to be “extremely careful” around dry grasses and sagebrush. So don’t be riding motorcycles, lighting off fireworks, barbecuing or doing other such activities near the dry grass and sagebrush, he said.
“So enjoy the water. Enjoy our area,” Fortier said. “But fire doesn’t need to be a part of your enjoyment.”

 

— By Jill FitzSimmons, editor@qvpr.com

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