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Kittitas County preparing for higher fire danger amid heatwave

Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue is cautioning residents to follow open-burning bans and asking recreators to enjoy the areas safely.

KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. — Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue (KVFR) said it's on high alert heading into the weekend, as high temperatures converge with lush fuel that will dry out and lead to faster-spreading fires. It’s cautioning residents to follow open-burning bans and asking recreators to enjoy the areas safely.

“It's an awareness and an appeal to have them be part of the solution in preventing fires in the first place, and to have them ready to leave the area when that's appropriate and hopefully prior to fire season over the previous year they've done things to protect themselves from fire danger,” KVFR Deputy Chief Rich Elliott said.

Homeowner Sherry Kain said her family chose to live in the area because of the canyon’s beauty and its proximity to creeks, but they’re aware of the risks and are careful each season.

“We try to keep vegetation away from the perimeter of the home; it's kind of hard cause you always want to have, say, roses on your house, but keeping that out of the way and keeping the sprinklers going as much as we can,” Kain said. “There's always the fire danger in this area- it just is- so we're always aware of where they're located and we always have friends in the area, community we can work with.”

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said heat has ramped up fuel for fires pretty quickly over the past week, going from below normal to drier than normal, with higher than normal fire danger.

KVFR and other agencies work closely together on fires and are prepared for a busy season ahead according to deputy chief Elliott. In recent years, he said they’ve changed techniques and employed more full-scale responses immediately when a fire starts, in hopes of keeping them to smaller acreage. They’ve also increased communication to underscore the importance of evacuation.

“The psychology and the emotions attached to people and their property create risk,” Deputy Chief Elliott said. “And they create risk to us. So we try to keep them out of their areas, and we try to make sure people leave those areas early so we can just deal with the fire.”

They encourage people to sign up for emergency alerts, so they know when and where a fire has started.

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