University Place, Wash. – With the dry, hot conditions this summer, it’s no surprise brush fire statistics have increased exponentially. From June 1-July 20, 2014, WPFR responded to 14 brush fires. During that same time frame this year, crews responded to 102. It’s not often fire departments see an increase of over 700% when talking about fire responses.
So far in 2015, West Pierce’s call volume is up by 8% and continuing to climb. With another hot streak in place this week through next, it is a reminder to be safe during this hot weather. While keeping well hydrated is essential, it is important to remember there is a burn ban in place not only throughout Pierce County, but in most of Washington State. Please be considerate of this burn ban, as the dry conditions are allowing what may normally be a small fire turn into something large and out of control very quickly.
FireComm, also known as the Steilacoom Boulevard branch of South Sound 911, is a regional fire dispatch center located at West Pierce Fire & Rescue’s Station 21 in Lakewood. The increase in fires across the county has greatly impacted dispatch centers as well.
On average, call volume for FireComm is 160-180 calls per day. This summer, daily call volume is averaging 275-300 calls. On the 4th of July alone, FireComm dispatched 503 calls for service between the 14 agencies they dispatch for.
As the hot, dry weather continues, so does the rise in brush fires across Pierce County. From June 1-July 20, 2014, crews dispatched by FireComm responded to 145 brush fires. During the same time period this year, crews have responded to 500.
West Pierce Fire & Rescue would like to remind citizens to stay hydrated and know their limits when it comes to the heat, as well as abide by the burn ban that is in place. If you are in need of emergency services and call 911, please be sure to tell the dispatcher the location of the incident. If you do not know, please be prepared to answer questions to help the dispatcher determine your location. The size of a fire, immediate or nearby threats, as well as what is actually on fire is essential to dispatchers and sending the appropriate resources.
UPDATE AS OF JULY 28, 2015 AT 6:45PM: Two working fires broke out simultaneously today in West Pierce, one in University Place and another in Lakewood.
At approximately 5:10pm, a large brush fire was dispatched near the New Tacoma Cemetery in University Place. The wooded area between the cemetery and residential homes was the location of the fire, which crews were able to extinguish without having to evacuate any homes. There were no injuries reported.
At approximately 5:25pm, an apartment fire was dispatched at the Brookside Apartments, located at 5124 Seattle Avenue SW in Lakewood. Crews arrived to find flames coming from the second story. Residents in all 10 units are being displaced due to damage. One patient was treated at the scene for minor burns. The fire is currently under investigation.
With this hot, dry weather, brush fire numbers are rising exponentially. While having two fires at the same time can be challenging and taxing on resources, mutual aid agencies assisted in each of these responses. The heat is anticipated to stick around for at least another week, so please be careful during these conditions.