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Small wildfire on Sumas Mountain could be ominous sign

A DNR firefighter is shown next to a wildland fire engine as smoke from the fire rises overnight Sunday on Sumas Mountain.
A DNR firefighter is shown next to a wildland fire engine as smoke from the fire rises overnight Sunday on Sumas Mountain. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A small wildfire Sunday that was contained overnight on Sumas Mountain could be an ominous sign if the weather stays warm and dry as forecast for the next several weeks, fire officials said.

State Department of Natural Resources crews were still on the mountain Monday morning to make sure the fire is out, said DNR spokeswoman Janet Pearce. She said the cause remains under investigation.

Once that wind picked up, it got pretty crazy in a hurry.

Chief Jerry DeBruin, Whatcom County Fire District 14

More than 20 firefighters worked into the night, including those from Whatcom County Fire District 14. Five wildland fire engines and two water tenders were sent to the remote area, accessible only by logging roads.

Whatcom County fire investigator Mitch Nolze said illegal fireworks or a campfire were possible causes, but no evidence has been found.

“It was pretty visible,” said Fire District 14 Chief Jerry DeBruin. “In those clearings, it’s starting to dry out pretty good. The moisture is still pretty high in the forest, though.”

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Fire crews dig a line to contain the fire Monday morning. Lt. David Moe Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Size of the fire was between 1.5 and 3 acres, burning in slash at a DNR logging site. It was reported by callers in the Kendall area who smelled smoke about 7:45 p.m. Sunday.

Fire District 14, which serves Sumas, Kendall and Welcome, sent about 20 firefighters who scouted its perimeter and dug a line around the fire. They were joined later by DNR crews.

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Fire crews scout the fire’s advance overnight Sunday in logging slash on state Department of Natural Resources land on Sumas Mountain. Lt. David Moe Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

“They dug about a thousand feet of fire line, then wetted it down,” DeBruin said. “They had to stop for a bit when those big piles (of logging debris) took off, it was too much heat. Once that wind picked up, it got pretty crazy in a hurry.”

DeBruin said witnesses told fire crews several people were in the area just before the fire was reported.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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