Cats and squirrels are causing Washington fires

A cat climbed onto power lines, caught fire, and started this blaze that destroyed outbuildings, cars and a camper in Grant County, August 2017.

Small animals like cats and squirrels are wreaking havoc in Central Washington this summer as fire crews respond to brush fires.

Two cats in Grant County have started fires, so far, this season after climbing onto electrical lines. On Aug. 2, a fire quickly spread to dry grass, and eventually to nearby outbuildings, cars and a camper.

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"The cat apparently had crawled up the pole, got into the power lines and blew the breaker," Grant County District 13 Fire Chief Jim Stucky 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."

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The fire district spread word about the danger via social media this week. Grant County is about 3 hours east of Seattle, and includes the towns of Ephrata and Moses Lake. Like many Central and Eastern Washington regions, it's experiencing a dry, summer season. The result is extremely flammable dry grass that provides fuel for wildfires and brush fires. There are currently five active wildfires in Washington state.

Animals have become a known fire hazard during this time, Stucky said, and cats are not the only culprits causing fires. He notes that birds have been problems in the past. Squirrels are also a considerable cause of fires, which also often come in contact with power lines.

“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.”

“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.”