Despite concerns of dangerous conditions after a record-breaking heat wave, the Twin Cities’ fire departments said the Fourth of July brought no major fireworks-related incidents, although firefighters responded to multiple trash fires in the area caused by personal pyrotechnics.
On Monday morning, Centralia’s Riverside Fire Captain Scott Weinert reckoned it was a last-minute humidity boost that prevented minor fires from growing into anything more serious.
“Although it’s not physically wetting things down, the higher humidity keeps fires from spreading quickly,” Weinert told The Chronicle. “So the higher humidity and the fact there wasn’t a lot of wind definitely helped keep the risk for fires low.”
In Chehalis, Fire Captain Rob Gebhart said it was “business as usual,” although he was concerned going into the holiday after last weekend’s heat wave. The extreme weather event pushed Washington temperatures into the triple digits and left vegetation bone dry, prompting burn restrictions.
Unlike neighboring Thurston County, which banned fireworks in unincorporated areas, Lewis County commissioners decided against a temporary prohibition, with Sheriff Rob Snaza saying enforcement would be nearly impossible in the vast county.
But across the state, a number of officials were warning residents to ditch fireworks over the holiday weekend as the West prepares for what could be another devastating wildfire season.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz urged residents before July 4 to “do their part to protect our firefighters and our communities this summer” and encouraged people to not set off their own fireworks.
In a pre-holiday news release, Lewis County’s fire marshal noted several cities and groups would be setting up fireworks, “in true Lewis County spirit.” The release noted some citizens had requested a ban, and asked residents in unincorporated areas to “exercise caution” while discharging their own personal pyrotechnic displays.
In Centralia, Riverside Fire Authority did break their own record for calls in a 24-hour period, coming in at 29 total calls on Sunday. But according to Weinert, the calls were mostly medical emergencies unrelated to fireworks. The previous record of 28, he noted, was also on a Fourth of July holiday.
The department responded to several small tree and grass fires, some of which were already extinguished by residents by the time officials arrived. A dumpster fire near the Domino’s Pizza location on Harrison Avenue was also probably caused by fireworks, Weinert said.
“So really, nothing. Pretty typical for Fourth of July as far as fireworks-related incidents,” he said.
On Sunday, the City of Chehalis Fire Department also responded to a dumpster fire at Yard Birds, where garbage was set ablaze by a firework. Gebhart described a section of the Yard Birds parking lot, away from the main building, taped off for fireworks.
In total, the department responded to eight calls, according to Gebhart, who said the number is higher than a normal day, but “not out of the question.”
Matthew Wallace, a firefighter with the Napavine-area Lewis County Fire District No. 5, said his department responded to one medical emergency in which a man was hit in the leg with a firework mortar. But as for firework-related fires, it was “nothing major.” A brush fire on Hamilton Road was contained by firefighters to a 10-by-40 foot area.
The department also responded to a garbage can fire after a homeowner threw away a discharged firework. A neighbor who pulled the can off the property, Wallace said, “saved the structure by doing that.”