SPOKANE, Wash – With a red flag warning and thunderstorms expected overnight, fire crews across the Inland Northwest are ready for what they expect to be a very busy next few days.
But even after the thunder and lightning pass, they know the danger isn't over yet; lightning sparked fires can happen days after the storm.
"I heard a story of it hitting a root in a tree, and then it smoldered for 7 days and traveled across, then actually came up out of the ground 100 yards from where it had struck," Fire District 8 Deputy Chief Greg Godfrey told KHQ's Kelsey Watts.
District 8 allowed KHQ on a ride-along with a fire engine Tuesday – just one day after battling three brushfires on Spokane's South Hill.
"We've had some fires that have gotten up to 1 or 2,000 acres already," Godfrey added. "So my anticipation is, we're going to have an early season, and a long season."
The Department of Natural Resources is also getting ready, moving some engines from the west side of the state to be stationed at Ellensburg, ready to go. It has a fire boss in Deer Park, a rotor in Omak, and all the engines are fully staffed – nobody gets a day off with a red flag warning in effect.
"Any fire that starts during red flag warnings has the potential to get very big, very quickly," a DNR spokesperson added.
On the Colville Reservation, crews told KHQ they were looking to get a helicopter Tuesday to fly over the region looking for smoke. The helicopter would also be able to carry a water bucket to help with suppression efforts should a fire start there.
The Fire Chief of District 3 in Cheney said they will remain vigilant with these conditions. A representative for Fire District 9 in north Spokane County said yes the risk is high, but "we're in the business of readiness, this is what we do all the time."
Now, they're watching the skies and wind, waiting to see what Mother Nature will do.