July Fourth mayhem surges in Snohomish County

EVERETT — Fireworks caused plenty of mayhem in Snohomish County over the Fourth of July weekend, including dozens of injuries and multiple brush fires.

At least one house fire, in Monroe, was attributed to fireworks on Saturday, and emergency dispatchers received a record number of 911 calls that evening. Two people in Marysville lost fingers.

Seventeen people, including adults and children, were treated for fireworks-related injuries at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Eleven were transferred from Providence to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The most common injuries seen at Providence were eye problems, burns, and blast wounds to hands.

Altogether, Harborview saw 39 patients with fireworks injuries, spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hansen said. The youngest was 2 years old with a facial burn. Many of the injuries were the result of mortars.

In Arlington, Cascade Valley Hospital had four patients with fireworks injuries, the youngest of whom was 10. The hospital also saw an uptick in heat exhaustion cases, in particular for older people, spokeswoman Jennifer Egger said. People need to check on older relatives and neighbors during the ongoing heat wave and make sure they are keeping cool and drinking water, she said.

The busy weekend was worrisome for firefighters, who say the hot, dry weather has already surpassed a normal August in terms of fire danger.

The last recorded rainfall in the lowlands was June 29, National Weather Service meteorologist Josh Smith said. No rainfall is in the forecast for the next seven days. However, the mountains, including Stevens Pass, could see thunderstorms on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

“Fire conditions are only going to get worse and we are urging people to be safe and smart with anything combustible,” said Kurt Mills, executive director for SNOPAC, the emergency dispatch center based in Everett.

Marysville police arrested a man after he allegedly set a tree on fire with a firework. The flames reached the top of the 100-foot tree.

Five different fires were linked to fireworks in the Monroe area on Saturday, Assistant Fire Chief Steve Guptill said. One significantly damaged a rambler along S. Lewis Street. Two people were displaced, though no one was hurt.

The two-alarm fire was reported just after sundown. A firework got into a row of bushes alongside the house and spread, Guptill said.

A brush fire burned about a half-acre off Currie Road SE.

“There were firework remnants in the area,” Guptill said. “Anybody who caused it was long gone by the time we got there.”

Other brush fires from fireworks threatened houses and cars in the Monroe district, but were extinguished by passersby, he said.

“To say we got stretched thin is an understatement,” Guptill said.

Snohomish looked like a war zone from fireworks, with a smoky haze that lingered for hours, Fire Chief Ron Simmons said. He called it “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

His and many other departments put extra crews on for the weekend,“and I’m glad we did,” he said.

Simmons didn’t leave work until about 12:30 a.m. Sunday. From his house at 5:30 a.m., he could see “the whole Snohomish valley was just smoke,” he said. “There was just a haze of smoke. It was incredible.”

One brush fire in Lake Stevens on Saturday afternoon grew to roughly 5,000 square feet, Fire Chief Kevin O’Brien said. It was near the intersection of 91st Avenue NE and Market Place NE and threatened a home. Every Lake Stevens rig was there, plus crews from Getchell.

Close to midnight, a firework started a fire in bushes that spread to a medical office building, also in the Frontier Village area, O’Brien said. It was quickly extinguished but the smoke had spread inside.

Over Friday and Saturday, Lake Stevens fire crews had 48 total incidents, the majority of them for brush fires, he said.

For the first time ever, Sultan firefighters ran a fire hose across the Skykomish River to reach a fire on an island that’s state property, Fire Chief Merlin Halverson said.

“It was a small fire, but it was burning in trees and brush and it was going to become a big fire. We couldn’t just let it go,” he said. “Fortunately it got reported early. All of our fires got reported early, which is what helped us. And I think people were extra vigilant this year, and they know it’s very, very dry.”

His department also had several fireworks-related brush fires, Halverson said. Watching the weather forecast right now is like “a scary movie,” he said.

Both SNOPAC and SNOCOM, the dispatch center based in Mountlake Terrace, reported spikes in 911 calls on Saturday at more than double last year’s calls for the holiday.

Between 10 p.m. and 10:59, SNOPAC received 663 calls to 911, Mills said.

By comparison, last week’s arsons along I-5 — all highly visible — generated about 400 calls in an hour.

“That’s still extremely busy, but we shattered that record on July 4,” he said.

SNOCOM received 320 calls to 911 about fireworks during the weekend. Overall, calls were up for the holiday weekend for SNOCOM, but firework complaints were down slightly, according to a report.

More than half of those calls came from Lynnwood and Edmonds, both of which have bans on fireworks.

Altogether, 92 fires were reported to SNOCOM over the holiday, mostly small ones in brush, sheds or trash bins. That’s more than last year’s 37 fires in southwest Snohomish County for the same time period.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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