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Lightning stretches fire crews’ resources


Fire crews have had quite a workout over the past week, particularly in Douglas County, Grand Coulee’s fire chief Rick Paris reported Monday.

Just as a Type-3 incident management team was cleaning up and leaving from the near 500-acre Cache Butte fire on north Banks Lake late last week, the area experienced another lightning storm that started several small fires and a larger one.

Douglas County Fire District 3 and District 5 battled a fire between Mansfield and Bridgeport near Foster Creek that turned into a major fire, starting about midnight last Thursday. Crews were still fighting that fire early this week.

Fortunately, firefighters also got some help from the weather the past couple of days with intermittent rain and cooler temperatures.

A fire was seen on the Almira hill Friday morning that was extinguished by the rain. Another fire was spotted on the coulee wall above the North Shores Development south of Electric City, also on Friday. At about the same time, another small fire started near the Knighten Ranch on Smith Lake Road.

Fire crews had several reports of a fire in Lincoln County, but they found tractors working a field and kicking up dust.

Shortly after that, another small column of smoke was seen above the coulee wall south of Electric City.

Local fire departments, along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Fire Department and a Bureau of Land Management crew, responded and managed to get a handle on all the fires except the big one near Foster Creek, which flared up in the afternoon enough to warrant a state Fire Mobilization, along with fires in McNeil Canyon and on Road A. Those fires together eventually burned nearly 3,800 acres. State crews planned to pull out Wednesday morning.

And Electric City firefighters and the BLM crew hiked up to the small fire on the Coulee wall and put that blaze out. Several trucks descended on the Smith Lake Road fire and it was controlled and mopped up quickly. A near 50-acre fire was controlled and put out on top of the coulee wall on the Brunner range area in Grant Fire District 14, with crews from the Grand Coulee area and Lincoln County Fire District 8 (Almira) and Grant County Fire District 6 (Hartline) and a bulldozer from the Rosenberg Ranch.

Saturday brought another round of storms but luckily no more fire starts. Sunday there were more storms, and some fires were started in Douglas County. Late Sunday the Cache Butte fire had another flare up in a draw on the coulee wall.

Paris said it was a very challenging few days for firefighters and that they are resting up getting ready for anything in the future.

Fire officials on the Colville Reservation reported about a dozen small fires over the weekend, the largest a 300-acre blaze near Omak Lake. David Nee at Mt. Tolman Fire Control Center said that, while the storms have produced lightning, they have also produced a lot of rain, helping in the control of the fires.

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