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Wind whips up brush fire along Highway 3

A string of brush fires along State Route 3 on Friday afternoon forced the highway to close temporarily as fire trucks from two counties lined up to combat the flames.

Fire District 7’s Gorst crew was first on the scene after a passerby reported the blaze — located just north of Lake Flora Road near the Mason County line — a little before noon. Immediately realizing the potential for the fire to get out of control and spread to the adjacent woodland area, the team called for backup.

By the time the blaze was under control, six South Kitsap units — including several volunteer units — and two Mason County units had responded to the scene.

According to fire district officials, some drivers passing through the area even stopped and got out to help.

“A pretty surprising volunteer response for the middle of the day,” said acting Battalion Chief Guy Dalrymple.

Dalrymple, who served as incident commander for the blaze, said the fast-moving flames mostly affected the scrub brush growing alongside the highway. However, he pointed to a charred tree and a seared utility pole as evidence of the severity of the fire.

The flames also apparently had jumped from site to site down the length of the highway as wind-buoyed embers were tossed into fresh fuel sources. A 50-by-300-foot piece of shoulder, plus two smaller areas, were reduced to charcoal.

The fire crews were at the site for nearly two and a half hours, during which time that part of SR 3 was one-lane only. Most of the crews’ time on-site was spent cutting brush and putting out hot spots.

“The nice thing about these fires is they burn bright, but they go out pretty quick,” Dalrymple said.

A burnt cigarette was found at one of the three sites, indicating a carelessly tossed butt was to blame for the blaze. Over the past few months, the fire district has emphasized the danger of throwing lit cigarettes from car windows. Dalrymple said the SR 3 fire was the fourth brush fire his crews had responded to that day, and it was still early in the afternoon.

“People don’t think,” he said. “They’re not malicious, they’re not trying to do anything — they just don’t think.”

Fire district officials would like to remind residents that conditions are still extremely dry, despite recent rain showers. They point out that occasional sprinkles aren’t enough to counteract months of hot, dry weather.

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