GRAHAM, Wash. - Underneath the rubble, ash and smoke once stood six homes in a neighborhood in Graham. All that's left is a shell of their community after a rapid brush fire burned about 100 acres and everything in its path Monday evening.
Steven Richards is the assistant chief for Graham Fire and Rescue in Pierce County. He said between 6 and 7 p.m. on Monday, strong winds knocked down several power lines in the area of 154th Avenue East and 240th Street East. The down lines caused a loud explosion and sparked fires on the dry grass. The high winds quickly pushed the flames out of control.
Richards said once crews got to the area, it was already too late for several homes.
“I’ve not seen anything like this in Graham. We’ve had some large fires, we’ve had some rapid fire spread, but nothing like this,” said Richards.
The assistant chief said six homes and three outbuildings burned down. As the smoke settled on Tuesday, the people that live in the area reflected on the short moments they had to get out alive.
“Ashes falling, everything’s burning, it's hot, people screaming. Honestly, it’s hard to see, hard to breathe,” said Alexander Gonzalez, whose family’s property was destroyed in the fire. “We were kind of tied down in between here a fire, there a fire, there a fire. At that point, you just have to get your butt out of here as quickly as you can.”
The Gonzalez Family used a garden sprinkler to put out hot spots on one of their outbuildings destroyed by fire. What was underneath the rubble was 30 years of memories and collectibles. Still, Gonzalez said his family is lucky.
“I’m glad it was just this and not the actual house where we lay our heads at,” said Gonzalez.
He explained the fire destroyed two outbuildings with tools, equipment, and a motorcycle inside. The flames also grazed their house. Had it not been for the swift action of firefighters, Gonzalez said their house would have been the seventh in the neighborhood burned down.
“Ignite like a match and it kind of just went all over,” said Gonzelez while showing the burned land surrounding their house.
Though the fire is contained, crews are not out of the woods just yet. Richards said firefighters are working nonstop to put out hot spots because they are worried about the dry, windy forecast ahead.
“What our concern is right now if the wind picks up, it could spark flames and start others because it’s still dry. So, we’re putting a lot of resources on this,” said Richards.
There was not much left to save from the destructive fire. The families affected said for now, they’re just thankful they were all able to save each other.
“Having a lot of money invested into things that you’ve collected over time—family things, tools. Obviously all material things but just staying positive knowing that it could have been worse,” said Gonzalez.
Richards said fortunately, no injuries were reported an everyone has been accounted for.
Families impacted are receiving assistance from the American Red Cross and staying at a hotel in town or with family and friends. Firefighters will be on scene the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday putting out hot spots so nothing else sparks.