Brown grass easy fuel for summer fires

Brown grass easy fuel for summer fires

While our annual fire season always seems to get it’s start in Central Washington, the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area is not far behind.

You can find bone dry or relatively green fuel within a few yards of each other depending how much sun they are catching. What’s different about this year is the amount of fuel. There’s lots of it out here thanks to our unusually wet winter and spring.

A month ago we asked Guy Gifford, Washington Department of Natural Resources, to wade through some waist-high grass and give a feel for our upcoming fire season.

“The taller the grass the more intense the fire is or the larger the flame lengths are,” said Gifford.

On Wednesday, we were back at the same spot and found a bumper crop of fire fuel

“Some of these grasses have actually gotten a little taller as they’ve started finishing their growing cycle, but we’re also seeing a lot of the grasses turn brown on us,” Gifford said.

And unfortunately, it only takes a spark to turn brown grass into a brush fire.

“This is what carries a fire,” said Gifford. “This is where fires are easy to start. Whether it’s a cigarette butt, whether it’s fireworks…a lot of the time fires start in fine fuels and that’s what we are seeing right now.”

So with the interface overloaded with tall mobility fuels, this summer, early detection and rapid response will be the only way to keep small fires from spreading.

“Initial attack response is always critical and having people calling in any smoke helps that gets those firefighting resources on very quickly.”

One of the best ways to deliver a speedy initial attack is from the air.

This water-dropping plane called a fire boss, can make the flight from Deer Park to Spokane in about 10 minutes and then throw down its 800 gallon cargo at the leading edge of the fire.

“That’s what we’re trying to do is slow down the spread of the fire and get it safe for the ground guys to get in and buy them a little time, buy them a little safety,” said Eric Johnson, DNR Contract Pilot.

Best of all, pilot Eric Johnson only has to find the closest lake to refill his fire boss, and then he’s ready for another run.

When you see those planes dipping water out of the lake, the pilot asks boaters to stay away and give them plenty of room to maneuver.