Fire season far from over

Published On: Sep 03 2012 06:28:30 PM PDT   Updated On: Sep 03 2012 06:31:18 PM PDT
Firefighters at Turnbull
CHENEY, Wash. -

A fast moving fire in the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this weekend is proof the wildfire season isn't over yet.

The fire started near Luke Road and South Cheney Plaza Road Saturday morning and threatened several homes in the area. As of 6 a.m. Monday the fire was 100 percent contained, with fire crews spending the day putting out hot spots.

The small plumes spotting the landscape of the blackened wildlife refuge Monday are a far cry from the flames reaching into the sky Saturday.

"Flame lengths were between 6 and 10 feet and it had already hit the timber," Doug Frederick with the Inland Northwest Fire Complex said.

The Luke Road Fire started just outside the southeast portion of the refuge but pushed by gusty winds the blaze quickly jumped the road and headed northwest, coming dangerously close to several homes.

An air tanker from Moses Lake dropped fire retardant, some of it coming down on a home to help stop the fire's advance.

"Pretty well insulated it; did burn right up to the yard down there, so it was a good stroke of business as they say," Frederick said.

A small fire plane from Coeur d'Alene also helped the firefighting effort, but a big factor was that crews had cleared dry fuels in the area several years back, keeping the fire from reaching the tops of the trees and spreading even faster.

"That thinning allowed this fire to act like one of our prescribed fires. We didn't get a catastrophic wildfire," Turnbull manager Dan Matiatos said.

Another hidden gem in this fire was that the 93 acres burned would have needed another thinning soon.

"Fire itself does benefit the ecosystem but we like to do that under prescribed circumstances," Matiatos said.

That's because prescribed burns are safer and less expensive than trying to contain a racing wildfire.

"The negatives greatly outweigh those positive ecological effects," Matiatos added.

The cause of the Luke Road Fire remains under investigation.