A scrub-steppe fire burned just south of Kennewick yesterday morning. The abrupt appearance of a plume of smoke in otherwise very clear sky was a bit of a surprise.
Scrub-steppe fires are common as this is a land with a long stretch of dry season. However, the grasses in this ecosystem have changed such that it is thought that the fires burn with a greater frequency and greater intensity than in the past. This past summer has seen several very large scrub-steppe fires in eastern Washington including one west of Prosser and another large one controlled with a large back fire on the Hanford Reach. These fires can cover huge swaths of land in very short periods.
The fire was contained and burned a bit short of one square mile. The fire burned during the morning when temperatures were mild and there was little wind. I went up the ridge above the burned area in the late afternoon. If the fire had burned then, it would have been a different story as the wind was blowing about 40 mph and the temperature was in the mid 80s.
A mix of dust and smoke coming off the burned area
Roots of sage brush and rabbit brush were still smoldering and dust was kicking up from the disturbed dirt roads around the perimeter of the burn. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Sharp edged lines around the burn area along dirt roads
The lack of wind during the fire made a big difference
If the wind had been blowing this slope would have burned and posed a threat to the homes on the ridge crest.