Fire reports tripled over July 4 weekend in Whatcom County

Whatcom County fire departments responded to triple the amount of fire-related calls over the Independence Day weekend compared to last year’s holiday.

And with only minimal rain in the forecast, the fire danger isn’t expected to lessen anytime soon.

County fire departments responded to about 90 outside fires and smoke investigations over the holiday weekend. That included two structure fires, four wildfires and several fireworks-related injuries, according to the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Fire inspector Mitch Nolze said with moisture levels way below historical averages, the increase comes as no surprise.

“There were less than normal fireworks complaints during the day, but more fireworks-related incident calls at night,” Nolze said.

While the National Weather Service forecast calls for a slight chances of showers Saturday night through Monday, Nolze said any rain the county receives likely will be minimal, and fire danger conditions are not expected to improve. Earlier this week the Washington State Department of Natural Resources upgraded fire danger for the county to very high/extreme — the highest level.

On June 17, a countywide ban was placed on all outdoor burning, including recreational, yard debris and land-clearing fires.

“It would take several inches of rain to be able to lift the burn ban at this point,” Nolze said.

Propane and charcoal grills still are permitted, but ash and other waste should be discarded in a metal container, doused with water and kept away from structures and other potentially combustible materials.

The Fire Marshal’s Office also reminds people that the period of legal fireworks discharge has ended. Firing them off now would be a criminal offense.

Three of the four county wildfires sparked over Independence weekend remain under investigation by the DNR, Nolze said. However, county officials are looking into the possibility that fireworks caused the Agate Bay fire.

Contact the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office at 360-676-6907 for any questions regarding burning in the county.

Libby Keller can be reached at 360-715-2242 or libby.keller@bellinghamherald.com.