Firefighters prepare for increased threat of brush fires as excessive heat lingers

With this summer’s excessively hot temperatures comes the growing threat of fires sparking almost anywhere.

Crews with West Pierce Fire & Rescue said some areas of focus during brush fire season are train tracks that often have dry, overgrown brush surrounding them. The risk is heightened in those areas when the weather is not only hot, but also windy.

"Today is one of those days. We all said it this morning—it feels like a day that’s probably going to burn," said Captain Jason Tinsley with West Pierce Fire and Rescue.

Tinsley said firefighters are responding to a lot more brush fires this year. Crews just battled large flames in a wooded area in Lakewood on Monday. Tinsley explained the abundance of greenery from the spring dried out from the extremely hot summer, which is now fueling the risk for more fires.

"It certainly alerts us. It kind of brings us to another level of ‘Hey, we got to be prepared for this, and we need to understand the weather that’s going on today,’" said Tinsley.

The captain of Engine 20 said checking the weather is how he starts each day, focusing his attention on the relative humidity.

"Anytime you see this relative humidity dip below 40 percent you have real potential for easy fire starts in brush," said Tinsley. "We will absolutely sit down as a crew, and we look at wind direction, wind speed, humidity, dew point. We want to know all of this stuff because it effects the fire weather."

Western Washington is inching closer to an all-time record for the most 90-degree days in a year. The record was set in 2015, when there were 12 days in the 90s. So far in 2022, there are 10 and there are still more extremely hot days ahead.

This raises concern and threat.

While brush fire season might last longer this year, crews are staying cool, and not just by hydrating. They have an extra measure of confidence thanks to some extra training.

"Our organization went out and got a grant for us to have specific wildland urban interface fire training this year. So, we will all have that training, and it’s going to make us better prepared for this year and years to come," said Tinsley.

RELATED: Drier, hotter conditions creating increase in West Pierce fire calls

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As brush fires become more common in the area, firefighters are asking members of the public to do their part in reducing the risk. This includes making sure there are no chains dragging from cars that could spark, and fully putting out cigarettes and other smoking materials before throwing it away.

"It’s probably out of sight, out of mind—people throw it out their window or throw it on the ground, and they don’t think about the potential effect from that. That is burning material. You get a low humidity day like today, and it doesn’t take much to start a fire," said Tinsley.