East Grays Harbor deals with substantial brushfire over weekend

Dry conditions saw a structure fire blossom into an all-out wildfire

Led by East Grays Harbor Fire & Rescue, departments from across the east side of the county and the state’s Department of Natural Resources responded to a brushfire on Saturday.

The fire began as a structure fire in a residence off Elma McCleary Road on Saturday evening and spread to the surrounding woodlands, according to a news release from Grays Harbor County Emergency Management.

“There were actually two events. We had the structure with all the cars. It blew embers into their backwoods,” said EGHFR firefighter/paramedic Mike Nicholson. “It was on both sides of the railroad tracks. It got into the trees and that’s where we were doing our airdrops.”

The fire had begun with a towed trailer/camper type vehicle, Nicholson said. Multiple passersby called it in at about 7 p.m. As soon as EGHFR assets pulled out of their station, the smoke plume was visible. The fire threatened a nearby lumberyard.

“We were calling in mutual aid as soon as we left due to plume size,” Nicholson said. “I called mutual aid. I also called a third alarm on that fire.”

The fire grew to consume multiple vehicles in the yard, as well as other debris. Trees that caught spread their embers east, which eventually caused the second major fire spot, Nicholson said.

“Propane tanks were popping off,” Nicholson said. “There was quite a bit of explosions.”

DNR deployed ground teams as well as a pair of helicopters, which made a total of six drops on the woodland portion of the fire, Nicholson said. Nicholson said that if they had waited to call DNR, the chances the fire would have grown much larger and triggered a state-level mobilization were high.

“If we weren’t on a burn ban, if we’d had the rain, I don’t think that fire would have spread and done that damage,” Nicholson said. “I don’t think we would have called in the wildland side.”

Personnel from Fire District 2, Fire District 12, Oakville and McCleary helped respond to the fire in addition to DNR personnel, Nicholson said.

“A lot of our rigs, we only had one person. If we could get more volunteers, with our five stations, we might not have to drain mutual aid departments as bad or for as long,” Nicholson said. “We only had two career staff on that for East Grays Harbor. That’s one of the reasons we relied on mutual aid.”

The structure fire was extinguished by approximately 9:30 p.m., Nicholson said. The wildlands fire was out by around midnight, with a DNR truck and an EGHFR tender stationed there overnight as a firewatch, Nicholson said.

“Be mindful, with this burn ban, that one little fire can blow up so easily,” Nicholson said. “Just a little bit of rain is not going to do anything. We need torrential rain for a couple days before we’re ‘out of the woods’ with embers flying.”

No one was injured in the event, Nicholson said. Law enforcement personnel are attempting to contact the owners of the property, while others investigate the origin of the fire.

Contact Senior Reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@thedailyworld.com.