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Fire danger warning issued in Pierce County

Post by Stacia Glenn / The News Tribune on Aug. 15, 2012 at 10:34 am with No Comments »
August 15, 2012 10:34 am

The National Weather Service has issued a warning of heightened fire danger as heat, low humidity and winds combine today in Pierce County.

A Red Flag Warning has not been issued in this region for three years. The last time was in 2009, and it was prompted by lightning.

The warning is in effect from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and extends throughout the Interstate 5 corridor, including Pierce, King, Thurston and Lewis counties. It also affects the Kitsap Peninsula and Hood Canal.

Andy Haner, a Weather Service meteorologist, said these conditions do not usually simultaneously strike this area.

“This combination comes together maybe once every five years,” he said.

Winds are projected to be 8-14 mph today, with gusts near 20 mph. Temperatures could rise into the low 90s and humidity is forecast to drop about 10 percent to as low as 25 percent.

The biggest fire danger in Pierce County is roadside blazes, officials said.

Grass is particular dry since it hasn’t rained in 26 days, and brush fires could be harder for firefighters to quickly extinguish.

Possible thunderstorms could hit the region Saturday. If they don’t, Western Washington could be looking at one of the longest dry spells since the Weather Service records start in 1948.

The longest stretch was 51 days in 1951. Although we are unlikely to rival that record, Haner said it’s possible that – absent rain this weekend – we could sneak into the fifth longest dry spell.

That record is 39 days, ending on Aug. 19, 1997.

“If we scrape past that one with no precipitation, we may be on the hunt for reaching the top five,” Haner said.

The last measurable rain to hit the Seattle/Tacoma area was July 20, when 6/10 of an inch fell.

An excessive heat watch and Stage 1 burn ban go into effect Thursday in Pierce County.

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