FEMA Warns of Lightning Danger, Benton County Firefighters Ready - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

FEMA Warns of Lightning Danger, Benton County Firefighters Ready

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Benton County -- The Department of Homeland Security has released a new report indicating that the most dangerous time for lightning strikes is 'now,' in the days before and after July Fourth.

Local firefighters are watching the weather carefully, as dry conditions persist, creating near perfect conditions for fire should lightning strike.

Mike Spring, Fire Chief for Benton County Fire District #4 says that often lightning hits in so many places at once, that he and other district Chiefs are forced to send one truck per call to assess the danger, rather than send multiple trucks to each strike.

But Spring says emergency systems are in place.  "If we know dry lightning is coming in, we put people at volunteer stations, form strike teams, even before it gets here."

Firefighters are watching a new weather system that's heading into the Northwest this week. It's expected to bring rain. If it pushes into the region-- with little rain falling-- dry lighting could be the result. And that means an even higher risk of fire.

And Susan Reinertson, Regional Director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning:  "Lightning can strike as far as ten miles away from any rainfall, creating hot spots that smolder for days, to erupt when conditions are right."

She also said, "Those of us who live in urban interface areas, wooded lots, or near heavily-grassed and dry rangeland should create fire-safe perimeters, and update family disaster plans."

Several massive wildfires in Washington State last year were sparked by lightning, including the 80-thousand acre Columbia Complex Fire which burned in and around Dayton.  That blaze began with six separate lightning strikes, and the flames eventually merged to form one fire.

Crews from all over the nation, and as far away as Australia aided in the battle to get it under control.

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