LAKEWOOD, Wash. – Firefighters south of Tacoma raced to save a mobile community from a fast-moving brush fire Friday afternoon but reported several structures were lost to flames and at least two people died.
West Pierce Fire and Rescue received the call around 2 p.m. and arrived to find a wall of flames advancing on more than a dozen homes in the Tacoma suburb of Lakewood.
"The flames were huge," area resident Nicole Ross told FOX 13 Seattle. "The flames were definitely taller than me."
Explosions could be heard as the fire raged on.
"When one propane busts, it was just like a trigger," said Ross. "It went to the next home, to the next one, to the next one."
Ross, her daughter and her daughter's friend all grabbed hoses to help water down neighbor’s lawns.
"It was hot, from the flames being so close," said Ross. "You could definitely feel the heat."
Xitlali Joya, who lives at the park, told FOX 13 her neighbor started banging on her door at around 2:30 p.m.
"The knocks were really scary. I went outside, my neighbor was in her car," said Joya. "I see outside it’s smoky. There’s a tree we usually see. It’s in flames."
At least 15 mobile homes destroyed or damaged
After an hours-long firefight, local authorities reported nine mobile homes were a total loss and upwards of six others had sustained significant damage.
During a search of potentially missing occupants, firefighters reported finding the bodies of at least two people.
Firefighters believe the fire started in a grassy area near the park. Investigators have not released the cause of the inferno, but most of the state has seen an unseasonably dry summer.
Most of the Evergreen State is unusually dry
Summer is the dry season in the Pacific Northwest, but much of the Puget Sound area hasn't received measurable rain in nearly two weeks, and hasn't seen a widespread wetting rain since mid-June. According to the latest update from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 88% of the state of Washington is dealing with unusually dry or drought conditions.
The community where Friday’s fire broke out is considered to be in a moderate drought.
In moderate drought conditions, fire risks are usually high as trees and other vegetation dry out and become potential fuel for wildfires.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources reported more than 1,000 fires in 2023 have destroyed about 91,000 acres.
Most of the West has experienced a slow start to the fire season after rounds of heavy precipitation during the winter and early spring.