Heat wave passes with one death in Enumclaw; firefighters urge 4th of July caution

Though worst of heat wave has passed, dry conditions mean fireworks are still a dicey bet

A 68-year-old woman in Enumclaw was among at least two people who died of heat exposure over the last week in King County, as intense and record-making heat gripped the Pacific Northwest for several days.

The woman died Monday, June 28 from systemic hyperthermia, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s office, or dangerous overheating. Her manner of death was ruled an accident. Her death was reported in the news media on Tuesday by The Seattle Times.

The woman was discovered having apparently fallen on the sidewalk on her way to visit some friends, Enumclaw Police Commander Tim Floyd said Wednesday. (Floyd becomes chief of the department July 1.)

The woman had pre-existing medical conditions that likely contributed to her death, Floyd said, and had not been using a cane that she ordinarily walked with. Floyd said it’s not yet clear how quickly she died after her apparent fall.

The woman appeared to be visiting from Orting to see friends in Enumclaw and does not appear to be a local resident, Floyd said. Members of her family came to the scene and spoke with officers, Floyd said.

Locally, the worst of the heatwave is over and the National Weather Service (NWS) has lifted its excessive heat warning for Western Washington. The NWS now forecasts highs in the mid-80s for most of the next week in Enumclaw.

Meanwhile, the sweltering, eastward-meandering weather system now stretches from eastern Washington and Oregon through much of northern Idaho. The high in Spokane was predicted to reach nearly 110 degrees June 30.

Hot, dry conditions persist locally, however, and police and fire officials urged caution ahead of the July 4 weekend.

“I hate to be that guy, but it’s my job” to ask people to consider not setting off fireworks this year, Enumclaw Fire Chief Randy Fehr said.

The Enumclaw Fire Department has instituted a burn ban, but only the city council has the power to ban private use of fireworks altogether.

“If we feel it’s dangerous enough that we’ve banned burning in advance of our traditional burn ban, then it’s certainly not great or good conditions to light off fireworks,” Fehr said. “I would hope that people would refrain from doing fireworks this year. We’ve had a couple of close calls in the last few years, with certainly the Fish Fire last year up by Mud Mountain Dam. … What we’ve had was one of the wettest Junes on record, which caused a ton of vegetation growth, (then) several consecutive days of hot weather. It doesn’t take very much time for that fuel to dry and become very easily ignited.”

The King County Council banned the use of fireworks outside of permitted fireworks shows in the unincorporated parts of the county this year, but that ban doesn’t go into effect until 2022.

For those who are dead-set on setting off fireworks, Fehr said they should choose a location where there isn’t combustible vegetation or houses nearby. They should keep a water source nearby, and soak then throw away any debris created by the fireworks. Avoiding intoxication from alcohol or other drugs while handling explosives is generally a good idea, too.

“That’s what I would hope, but ultimately my hope would be that they would refrain (from fireworks altogether) this year,” Fehr said.