DNR: Firefighters put out at least six fires at Dishman Hills, most of them caused by people

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Temperatures will start to soar this week as the summer heat continues.

One area that firefighters are worried about is Dishman Hills. They’ve been there for six fires this year.

“It’s only mid-August and there’s still plenty of time left in the summer,” said Austin Hatten, a Washington state Department of Natural Resources forest technician. “We’ll probably be out here another several times.”

Five of the fires are still under investigation, but Hatten said they are confident that they were started by people. He added that it’s not unusual to have so many during this time of year, but it’s out of the ordinary to have so many in such a short amount of time.

They’re not sure who started the fires.

“Although the transient population is responsible for quite a few fires in this area, there is no singular cause as to what’s creating this,” Hatten said. “So therefore there is not one easy fix to it.”

Another challenge they face is getting to the fires.

“It’s a natural area, so we’re pretty much limited to what roads are already in place there,” said Rob Proctor, Spokane Valley Fire Battalion Chief, “and I think we’re seeing greater usage of this area right now because of all the pandemic concerns and a lot of people are still out of work.”

A fire that started a week ago was about a half mile up, they said. Firefighters had to hike into the ridge to get to it. Some fires have been nearly a half mile up.

“Prior to that we’ve had some smoke in the area calls and they’re always challenging in this area because of the access,” Proctor said.

As they start to make their way up to the fire, they also have to keep an eye on houses nearby.

“Luckily we’ve got good access to those areas so we can actually set up a fire line,” Proctor said. “If we don’t think that we can get into the fire, we can at least get a defensive posture to protect those homes and businesses.”

To help firefighters, they said to make sure you’re properly getting rid of anything that can start a fire.

“If you’re a smoker, let’s take care of our smoking materials appropriately,” Proctor said. “Not just throwing them on the ground and thinking it’s out.”

No campfires are allowed right now as there is an active burn ban.

“It’s going to be hot and dry probably now through the end of September at least,” Proctor said. “We just need to be very careful with what we’re doing out there.”

DNR investigators have the option to charge someone with a crime related to a fire.

“It’s not been unusual in the past to have some of the cost of fighting the larger fires come back on the person that started it,” he said.

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