Officials urge stop to fireworks use, but calls go unheeded

As wildfires burned across Washington state Saturday, public officials urged Fourth of July revelers not to deliberately light more things on fire.

Predictably, those pleas were ignored even before the sun set.

West Pierce Fire and Rescue said fireworks caused a blaze at the skate park in University Place’s Cirque Park Saturday afternoon. And a brush fire caused by fireworks burned Saturday afternoon in a residential part of Spanaway, according to Central Pierce Fire and Rescue.

At about 5 p.m. Saturday, another fire along westbound state Route 512 near the Woodland Avenue overpass caused traffic backups for miles, Central Pierce reported.

And that’s after Central Pierce firefighters already responded to six other brush fires earlier in the day, said agency spokesman Ed Hrivnak.

While the causes of those fires had yet to be determined as of Saturday, four other brush fires that Central Pierce extinguished Friday were cleary caused by fireworks, Hrivnak said, judging by the fireworks found at each location.

Central Pierce was staffing two additional fire engines Saturday to help handle increased calls on the Fourth of July, Hrivnak said. By 10:30 p.m., the agency said it had reponded to nearly 40 brush fires on the holiday.

Hrivnak said with this year’s weather, people shouldn’t shoot fireworks at all.

“I recommend this year that you just don’t use fireworks because of the dry conditions, and just go to a public show,” Hrivnak said. “The risk with these fire conditions is so high.”

Elsewhere in the county, East Pierce Fire and Rescue also reported battling multiple brush fires Saturday, including one in the Edgewood area that started behind a fireworks stand located off the 1000 block of Meridian Avenue East.

“Almost made it to 2 homes before firefighters to could get in front of it,” the agency posted on its Facebook page. By 8:30 p.m. Saturday, East Pierce posted it had gone on “general alarm” status, calling back off-duty firefighters “due to high call volume and multiple fires.”

In Thurston County, firefighters responded Saturday to a handful of brush fires in Yelm and Lacey, according to emergency radio traffic. No other details about those fires were available.

Unseasonably hot and dry conditions in Washington have contributed to the early start of this year’s wildfire season. On Saturday, firefighters with the state Department of Natural Resources were battling three large wildfires in Eastern Washington, as well as many smaller fires, according to an agency news release.

In the past week, a wildfire destroyed homes and businesses in Wenatchee, while another large fire burned near Quincy. Firefighers as of Saturday had mostly contained those fires.

Peter Goldmark, the state’s commissioner of public lands, said in a written statement Saturday that hot weather and strong winds have “created conditions that make any fire extremely dangerous and expensive to suppress.”

“Whether it’s fireworks, cigarettes or anything that sparks a fire, it’s absolutely essential that people not add to a dangerous situation,” Goldmark said.

Local fire agencies repeated that call, with Lacey Fire and Rescue outlining on Twitter 10 reasons why people should not put on their own fireworks show this evening.

The top reason?

“Our founding fathers would have wanted you to keep all of your fingers,” the agency tweeted.