Local firefighters respond to more brush fires this year than all of 2022

With these searing weather conditions, firefighters are standing by for anything that sparks, and they are not having to wait very long for the next call.

This is the first day of this heatwave, and we are already seeing fires spark across the region.

FOX 13 News interviewed West Pierce Fire & Rescue at about noon Monday. At that time, it already had two crews out fighting flames at different locations. 

Firefighters are putting it on everyone these next few days to be responsible and be vigilant.

"The fires are spreading so much faster," said Layne Bladow, a battalion chief for West Pierce County Fire & Rescue. "The last few days we've been in the 80s, and now we're coming up on the 90s. All of our fuels on the ground and in the trees have dried out. So, it's pre-dried, and now we get a small fire, and they erupt violently and dramatically."

READ MORE: Excessive Heat Warning: Dangerous heat through Wednesday in Western Washington

Battalion Chief Bladow has been a firefighter for more than 30 years. He told FOX 13 News that the fires that pop up now are more intense than earlier in his career.

"We did not see this type of intensity in our fires," said Battalion Chief Bladow. "We didn't see the amount of speed that these fires consume. As well as the overarching stress we have."

Battalion Chief Bladow said fire and rescue crews are ready for whatever sparks up. However, if there are bigger fires, they're not always able to rely on mutual aid.

"Back in the day, we were able to call on Tacoma Fire or call on Central Pierce, or bring over Gig Harbor in the event that we have a large event," Battalion Chief Bladow said. "Now, they are being tapped for their own resources and their own fires and their own events."

With more calls and limited staffing, Battalion Chief Bladow is calling on the community to keep each other safe. That means no burning, cleaning up your yard, making sure there are no stray brush piles, and keeping a defensible space.

"It is all of our job[s] to continue being safe," Battalion Chief Bladow said. "It is our job to be vigilant. And in these times, I know that we are all busy, and we are all doing our important things. But we need to take care of each other."

Battalion Chief Bladow said after the devastation in Maui, it reminds him that there are always dangers you never expect when it comes to firefighting.

"Sometimes, we're prepared—but when it happens, it happens quickly and all of a sudden, it is all hands on deck," Battalion Chief Bladow said.

As a shift commander, he said it reminds him to always look out for his crew, physically and mentally.

"The one thing that I tell everyone: tell everyone you love them," Battalion Chief Bladow said. "Because things happen pretty quick, and it's an emotional toll on us to see such devastation. And it is difficult to see that people have lost their belongings or lost their loved one or lost a pet. It's tough on our firefighters to see that."

West Pierce Fire & Rescue have already responded to 187 brush fires this year. That number is more than in all of 2022.

Same goes for Puget Sound Fire. In 2022, they responded to 238 brush fires. This year, they've already responded to 271.