3 firefighters injured, apartments damaged by White Center brush fire

WHITE CENTER, Wash. -- It’s the first day of spring, but brush fires have already been popping up across Washington state because of the dry conditions.

In White Center Wednesday afternoon a brush fire damaged an apartment building and injured three firefighters.

The brush fire was about two acres in size and winds carried the fire toward an apartment complex, damaging seven unites and displacing more than a dozen people.

Sgt. Ryan Abbott with the King County Sheriff’s Office says they arrested a 34-year-old transient male Wednesday afternoon for suspected arson at the King County Library in White Center after a witness told deputies they saw the man set the field on fire. The library is a few blocks from the field.

Even though this brush fire is suspected to be intentional, firefighters say warm weather and the wind Wednesday afternoon helped spread the fire quickly.

“It was right outside my window and the first thing I’m thinking is am I going to die, am I going to need to get out of here,” said Charles Batts.

Batts lives behind the field in an apartment that was not burned, but he says smoke from the fire filled the hallways of his building too.

He says he’s lived here for more than three years and says the now burned brush field has been a hub for homeless activity. He heard a loud noise before the fire started.

“It was like a really loud explosion, you heard a big 'Boom!' And, after you heard that my whole living room shook a little,” described Batts.

Kyle Ohashi with the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority says three firefighters had minor injuries putting out this fire, which easily spread because of warm and dry conditions.

“Although it was cold over last few weeks it was very dry, there has been very little humidity in the air once snow stopped,” said Ohashi.

Very little moisture on the ground also fueled a brush fire in Eatonville, which spread to 45 acres and was 95 percent contained by Wednesday evening. DNR says since Monday, they’ve responded to 24 wild fires in Western Washington alone.

Ohashi says he predicts this will be a busy spring and summer fire season and encourages everyone to be aware of burn bans in counties they live in and remember to never toss out cigarette butts from car windows or park cars on dry grass.