PORT ORCHARD — As with just about anything taking place this year, you can count on it being worse, bigger and more complicated. And that’s how life has been for South Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighters over the past two weeks.
Just this last week, SKFR crew members were called down south to California to battle wildfires that are ravaging many regions of that state. Some local members also headed down to fight forest wildfires in southwestern Washington state, the middle section of the state and in Spokane County in eastern Washington.
Strike Team 2, comprising some SKFR members and their Type 1 engines, finished its work at the LNU Lightning Complex fire in California. Others have been assigned to fight the White River Fire in the Tygh Valley, Oregon, including a firefighter who is serving as a COVID specialist responsible for ensuring the team has the safest-possible COVID-resistant camp set up there. Precautions that have been undertaken include keeping the crews together with no intermingling, providing contact-free meals, and triaging support should a member contract the virus.
An SKFR crew member also has been assigned as water tender support to the Evans Canyon Fire effort in Naches, Yakima County, SKFR said in a social media post.
Closer to home
But back to the “worse, bigger and more complicated” factor plaguing this summer season. Over the Labor Day weekend, while SKFR crews were battling brush fires along Kitsap County highways, calls came into Kitsap 911 Monday night alerting the agency to three separate residential house fires.
Two of the house fires were two-alarm-category calls. SKFR reported no individuals were injured in the fires. The blazes, which may have been exacerbated by high winds Monday night, necessitated temporary closure of three South Kitsap roadways: Orchard Avenue Southeast between Fragaria Road and Black Road; Banner Road Southeast between Fragaria Road and Millihanna Road; and Willock Road Southeast between Banner Road and Orchard Avenue. The roads were closed due to downed trees and power lines, SKFR officials said.
While SKFR crews were fighting those fires, multiple instances of brush fires were reported, necessitating outside help from Central Kitsap and North Kitsap firefighters, as well as from agencies in Jefferson, Mason and Pierce counties.
A brush fire in the Hunter Road area had crews and a helicopter from the state Department of Natural Resources attending to the blaze. A strike team with three engines and two water tenders from Pierce County was requested to take on the two-acre-involved fire.
Calls unrelated to fighting fires included tending to a natural gas line rupture Monday, a non-injury accident on southbound Highway 3 and a rollover entrapment of two auto passengers on eastbound Highway 16, as well as the usual assortment of medical aid calls.
Updated burn ban
On Tuesday, the Kitsap County Fire Marshal expanded the county’s current burn ban to prohibit all outdoor fires, effective immediately.
The fire marshal said the move was prompted by several factors, including hot and dry weather that has made conditions optimal for igniting fast-spreading fires. The current weather conditions are expected to continue into the next week.
Large fires across the state have depleted all but local firefighting resources, said David Lynam, Kitsap County’s fire marshal.
“Escaped outdoor fires are a leading cause of wildland fires,” Lynam said. “Given these circumstances, the best way to prevent a big incident in our county right now is by preventing it from starting in the first place.”
Under a Stage II fire danger burn ban, no open burning is allowed. All outdoor burning permits remain suspended, recreational fires are prohibited and only propane or natural gas-fueled cooking fires are allowed, Lynam said.
While outdoor fires are to blame for many dangerous brush fires, there are other causes as well.
“The situation is serious, and we really need everyone’s help limiting all ignition sources,” he said.
The fire marshal said residents can help by disposing of smoking materials properly, securing trailer chains to prevent sparks, deferring lawn mowing until conditions improve, and practicing fire-safe target shooting where it is allowed.