Cats and Squirrels Are Causing Washington Fires

Ivan Pentchoukov
By Ivan Pentchoukov
August 5, 2017US News
Cats and Squirrels Are Causing Washington Fires
Firefighter on a makeshift fire truck puts water on a wildfire, as it burns through brush on Aug. 22, 2015, near Omak, Wash. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The raging Washington wildfires and brush fires have some furry tailed culprits.

State fire officials are taking to social media to warn locals that cats and squirrels can wreak havoc if they climb onto electrical lines.

Two cats have started fires in Grant County this season by climbing onto power lines. A fire started by one of the cats on Aug. 2 spread to dry greass, nearby outbuildings, cars, and a camper, according to KIRO7.

“The cat apparently had crawled up the pole, got into the power lines and blew the breaker,” Jim Stucky, the Grant County fire chief, said.

“The cat, when it got electrocuted, of course, it started its fur on fire and it fell down onto the ground and away the grass went.”

Similar to many central and eastern Washington regions, Grant County is experiencing a particularly dry summer season. The scorching sun dries out swaths of grass, making it extremely flammable. These patches then become fuel for wildfires.

Five active wildfires are currently raging in the state of Washington.

Small animals have become a known fire hazard, according to Stucky, but cats aren’t the only ones to blame. Birds have been known to start fires in the past and squirrels have already started fires this year.

“Right up the road, a few miles we had another incident where a cat went up a pole,” Stucky said. “We assume it was chased up by coyotes … But that was definitely the cause.”

Grant County is about 3 hours east of Seattle. The area includes the towns of Ephrata and Moses Lake.

“Our neighboring city, Ephrata, had three squirrels in the last month start fires,” Stucky said. “We get quite a few birds and squirrels. This is the second time we had a cat do it. Usually, it’s squirrels.”

Firefighters extinguish hotpots after a wildfire, part of the Okanogan Complex, swept through the area on August 22, 2015 near Okanogan, Washington. The Okanogan Complex fires have burned more than 127,000 acres. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Firefighters extinguish hotspots after a wildfire, swept through the area on Aug. 22, 2015, near Okanogan, Wash. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

In 2016, a fire in South Seattle was started due to truly fishy circumstances.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was talking to the dispatcher,” said City Light spokeswoman Connie McDougall “I asked, routinely, what the cause of the outage was. He said, ‘Well, you’re not going to believe it.’ I said, ‘Was it a raccoon?’ He said, ‘No, a fish.'”

“It is rare,” she said. “I’ve been here 16 years and I’ve heard of raccoon-caused outages, and many bird outages. But never a fish.”

Before the fish hit the powerlines, it was meant to be a bird’s lunch. The bird most likely snatched the fish from a nearby river, but lost it as the fish flailed for its life. The fish then landed on power lines and caused a power outage for 172 customers for two and a half hours.

“It just lost its grip on the fish at an inopportune time and dropped the fish on the power lines,” McDougall said. “It basically caused a short … and the power went out and the fish was electrocuted.”

A local resident witnessed the drama and directed responding crews to the spot where the fish had been fried.

In 2015, there were more than 160 bird-caused power outages in Seattle, with two bald eagles dying after hitting power lines.

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