YAKIMA, Wash. — Despite dry conditions and high winds, the Yakima Valley managed to avoid a major fire during Thursday’s Fourth of July celebrations, but firefighters in the city of Yakima and in the East Valley responded to more calls than last year.
The fires were mostly small and none involved buildings. Smoke from a brush fire prompted evacuation of a Yakima movie theater and about three dozen, mostly small fires, were reported in the Lower Valley.
In the city of Yakima, firefighters responded to at least eight fires, seven of which were either confirmed or suspected to have been caused by fireworks. One of those incidents caused the brush fire that prompted the evacuation of the nearby Yakima Cinemas on North 16th Avenue due to smoke, according to the Yakima County Fire Department.
A fire official noted the seven fires in Yakima were a marked increase from last year.
“It was way high,” said Capt. Tom Schneider, public education officer for the Yakima Fire Department. “Last year we only had two.”
At one point, there were no available units because they were all responding to calls, Schneider said.
Yakima County Fire District No. 4, which covers the East Valley area responded to 11 “relatively small” fires, said Lt. Trevor Lemseigne.
“We were up this year due to the windy conditions and how hot it has been lately. The fields are really dry,” Lemseigne said.
West Valley Fire Department and Lower Valley Fire Department both reported average nights for the Fourth of July.
Yakima County Fire District No. 5, which covers the Lower Yakima Valley, responded to 35 grass fires.
Firefighters were concerned about the potential for large fires due to dry conditions and 26 mph winds, with gusts of more than 33 mph reported in Yakima.
Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-80s to low-90s until Monday, with winds up to 15 mph Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.