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Firefighters descend on B Street fire


Firefighters dig through a burning pile of firewood as temperatures rise above 95 degrees Monday, after a fire ignited in an empty lot, possibly from lightning. - Scott Hunter photo

Response to a fire in the heat of Monday afternoon in Grand Coulee underscored the nervousness of local fire fighters in the current, extreme heat conditions, with fireworks legal.

As a summer thunderstorm rolled through the area at just after 5 p.m. downpours heralded thunderclaps, and lightning may have lit up a mostly empty lot on B Street, empty except for several large piles of firewood.

Even with the downpour, the fire caught, and high winds fanned it.

"It does show the extreme fire behavior we are experiencing with all starts," stated Grand Coulee Volunteer Fire Chief Rick Paris.

A woman living in a duplex next door reported the fire outside her window just as she was watching a television report of a huge fire in Wenatchee, which had burned 28 homes.

"It's just the weirdest thing," Bev Sullivan said. "You're watching the fire on TV and then look outside and see the fire."

The fire in the lot beside her home was burning hot and fast on Elizabeth Gillard's lot at the corner of B Street and Third Street, and seven fire trucks responded.

"Neighbors and retired firefighters all showed up to assist," noted Paris, and crews responded from Grand Coulee, the Bureau of Reclamation, Electric City and Coulee Dam, 20 firefighters in all.

Several fires also started in surrounding areas mostly to the south and west from the fast moving thunderstorm, Paris noted, and Douglas County Fire Districts 3 and 5 responded to a new fire in the Leahy Junction area.

By 9 p.m., state fire assistance had been mobilized under the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan in support of local firefighters working to contain the Road 6 Fire near Mansfield. That wildfire had burned 2,000 acres and the state sent in another 25 engines to fight it.

The Douglas County fire marshall has banned all fireworks in unincorporated areas in the county. The only exceptions are professional fireworks displays which have already been approved.

Paris said the B Street fire is under investigation to rule out human causes, but factors seem to point to a lightning strike.

"Again, fire fighters are urging everyone to use care when doing outside activities," he said.

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