Fireworks scorch 7 acres of Ocean Shores dunes, threaten homes

Several beachfront homes were evacuated July 4 in Ocean Shores when a fire in the dunes sparked by fireworks burned more than seven acres. Firefighters brought the grass fire under control about 15 feet from large homes and condominiums.

“The fire grew really, really fast — scary fast,” Ocean Shores Fire Capt. Brian Ritter said.

Three or four small grass fires were reported as a result of fireworks, Ritter said, but the largest was reported at 6:40 p.m. just south of the Marine View Drive beach approach. Winds from the northwest fanned the fire and it grew rapidly, spreading toward nearby homes.

Dry grass and shrubs like the wax myrtle helped the fire spread quickly.

“Once the wax myrtle catches, that stuff’s like kerosene,” Ritter said.

Ocean Shores Fire Department had already called in extra equipment and firefighters for the holiday, as it does every year, and a bulldozer is what ultimately allowed them to stop the fire, Ritter said.

Firefighters positioned themselves in front of the homes ahead of the fire, and dug a fire break — essentially a trench — with the bulldozer, cutting off its fuel and stopping it feet short of the homes.

“That’s why we were able to stop it when we did,” he said. “We’ve been really good, and as far as I’m concerned, really lucky. With the winds blowing right at the structures it can be really scary for the firefighters and the homeowners for sure.”

Firefighters were positioned near each beach approach and watched for signs of trouble through binoculars, sometimes contacting people to move away from the dunes or aim their fireworks a different direction. But every holiday brings numerous visitors to the beach, and firefighters can’t contact everyone.

“Carelessness with fireworks, that’s what it was. So we always tell people to stay 100 feet away from the dune grass area and shoot fireworks out toward the ocean, but we always get those people that don’t adhere to the rules and regulations, and it can turn really scary really quick,” Ritter said.

No injuries or property damage was reported.

Ocean Shores Fire responded with two fire engines, two brush engines, a ladder truck and a bulldozer. Grays Harbor Fire District 7 assisted with two fire engines.