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Fires scorch parts of island's north end

Firefighters on North Whidbey had a busy Monday afternoon, extinguishing two brush fires that burned several acres of land.

At approximately 2 p.m., firefighters responded to a brush fire in a hay field just off Green Valley Road north of Oak Harbor.

Firefighters from Island County Fire District 2 responded to the fire that could be seen from Highway 20 near Ault Field Road.

Fire Chief Marv Koorn said the fire was caused by a spark from a guy mowing grass on a neighboring property.

“He had a lot of dead grass lying around and when he turned around he saw fire,” Koorn said, adding a spark coming from a rock hitting the blades or from the mower’s exhaust probably ignited the blaze.

He estimated that approximately three to four acres were burned.

Two brush engines, two engines and a water tender were needed to extinguish the blaze.

Several minutes after responding to the fire near Green Valley Road, firefighters were called to another fire near the intersection of Crosby Road and Alpine Drive.

Approximately 500 square feet of land was burned, said Captain Rich Cannon, adding firefighters immediately put the fire out. Cause of the fire was unknown, but fireworks are always a possibility this time of year.

Cannon said some of the grass was still green which helped minimize the size of the burn area.

The dry conditions and the two brush fires Monday have officials concerned that more fires could be in store for Whidbey Island, especially with all the fireworks being used.

The fire danger was escalated to “medium” last week to inform folks of the increased risk.

Fred Wefer, Island County fire warden, said the fire danger is likely to increase as the hot weather and windy conditions continue to dry out vegetation.

“We’d have to have two weeks of rain to make a change in conditions,” Wefer said, adding that the several days of rain residents experienced a couple weeks ago didn’t change conditions.

While the island is getting drier, it won’t likely change the fire danger status until after the Independence Day holiday, Wefer said.

He said officials are currently talking about instituting a burn ban. He said that such a burn ban would take place in Skagit, Island and Whatcom counties. Wefer is also the fire warden for Skagit County.

“We have good lines of communication,” Wefer said, explaining that if a burn ban is instituted, it would likely last until the middle or end of September.

Even though the county is still issuing burn permits, permitted burns can be extinguished due to smoke affecting nearby neighborhoods.

“Our (fire) danger is getting up there but the big thing is air quality,” Wefer said. As the temperature rises, people are leaving their windows open and could be affected by smoke from nearby legal burns.

He shut down two commercial burns last week on South Whidbey Island because of air quality issues.

Should anyone be caught violating any potential burn ban, they would be subject of fines ranging from $500 to $1,000.

Anyone caught throwing a lit cigarette from their car would be subject to a $1,025 fine.

Burn ban imposed

Just as this edition of the Whidbey News-Times was going to press, Mike Hawley, Island County Sheriff and Fire Marshal, announced a countywide outdoor burn ban will take effect at noon Thursday, July 1.

All outdoor burning will be illegal until further notice. The exception is barbecues and approved campfire pits. For more information call the outdoor burning information line at 679-7343.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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