A brush fire off I-5 brings fire season home to south Thurston County

A brush fire between I-5 north of the Grand Mound exit and Lawton Lane Wednesday marks what is expected to be a dry and windy fire season.

John Schmidt, whose house is across the street from the fire, noticed smoke around 11 a.m. as he was getting on Case Road, taking out of town relatives to Seattle. He immediately turned around and called 911.

West Thurston Fire arrived on scene and contained the fire before it spread to nearby houses. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

West Thurston Fire Captain Rob Smith estimates the fire spanned 3-4 acres before it was put it out.

Fortunately, the fire didn’t spread farther, as was the case with the Scatter Creek Fire in 2017, when 400 acres of land burned on either side of I-5, destroying several homes, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Above-average temperatures have made the brush especially dry this year. High winds coming into the area from the Chehalis Valley also could cause fire to spread quickly.

“What we had working against us today was wind,” Smith said.

Schmidt, who was evacuated from his home during the Scatter Creek Fire, fears what Wednesday’s fire could mean for the coming summer.

“I didn’t expect fire season to be here this soon,” Schmidt said.

He and his neighbors originally weren’t planning on cutting back the brush around their houses until next week. “All of us here, we’ve changed our attitude about that... it’s a little different this year.”

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), Schmidt is right. NIFC projections estimate the fire risk in Western Washington will remain “Above Normal” throughout the summer months and into September.