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Chuckanut fire 50 percent under control; full containment expected by week's end

Here's what the Burnout Road fire looks like

South Whatcom Fire Authority provided these photos and video from the firefighting effort on the Burnout Road Fire in the Chuckanut Mountains south of Bellingham, Washington on Wednesday, August 2.
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South Whatcom Fire Authority provided these photos and video from the firefighting effort on the Burnout Road Fire in the Chuckanut Mountains south of Bellingham, Washington on Wednesday, August 2.

A wildfire that has scorched 63 acres in the Chuckanut Mountains continued to burn Thursday, with about half of that area under control, according to fire authorities.

Firefighters expect the flames to be fully contained by the end of the week.

Officials still don’t know what sparked the fire on steep terrain by an old clearcut Tuesday, within a mile of Lost Lake and hiking trails that weave through Larrabee State Park. Firefighters made “significant progress” battling flames late Wednesday, as humidity and calmer winds helped them push closer to hotspots, said Michael Krueger, a spokesman for what’s being called the Burnout Road Fire.

What began as a local firefighter response has since turned into a Type 3 incident – on the federal complexity scale of 1 to 5 – with 150 firefighters joining in from across the state, according to a report on InciWeb, a national wildlife database.

Winds drove the fire uphill, spreading from old logging debris into standing timber by Thursday morning, according to the InciWeb report. Crews hope to have the fire in “mop-up” in the next few days, meaning they will be able to work from point to point, to extinguish the burning shrubs, logging slash and light to medium timber.

Firefighters no longer fear for the safety of four homes on Chuckanut Ridge Drive initially reported to be threatened by the fire, Krueger said. Residents weren’t told to evacuate, but were given a warning to be ready to leave if the fire worsens. A firefighting helicopter has been drawing fresh water from Lake Samish, but did not work on Thursday.

A Fire Boss aircraft joined the fight Thursday, working for two hours and dumping 16 loads of water. The fixed-wing sea plane can carpet wildfires with 600 gallons of fresh water at a time.

The local fire added smoke to air that was already hazy from distant wildfires. Air quality was labeled “unhealthy” in Bellingham and much of Washington because of smoke drifting south from massive fires in British Columbia, according to the state Department of Ecology.

The fire in the Chuckanut Mountains is being handled by the regional Southeast Washington Interagency Type 3 Team 3. The team is working with local fire crews to plan for high winds blowing across the Puget Sound – though wind can be difficult to forecast, Krueger said. Meanwhile, firefighters have moved their base from a Lost Lake trailhead to Fairhaven Middle School in Bellingham.

A state fire investigator has been on scene this week.

Trails north of the fire, including Fragrance Lake, remain open. Trails south of Lost Lake were closed, Krueger said. One of those is the fire’s namesake, Burnout trail.

No injuries have been reported, and no homes have been lost.

The Bellingham Herald reporter Tyler Urke contributed to this report.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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