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The Chuckanut Mountain wildfire flames have been put out. So, what’s next?

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.

The flames from the wildfire that scorched 63 acres in the Chuckanut Mountains have been put out and firefighters are now working to address hotspots, fire officials said Friday.

The fire started Tuesday in an old clearcut on state Department of Natural Resources and private land six miles southeast of the Lost Lake Trailhead. Local fire crews responded to the fire initially, but the Southeast Washington Interagency Type 3 Team 3 took over the operation, a Type 3 incident on the federal complexity scale of 1 to 5.

Michael Krueger, a spokesman for the Burnout Road Fire, said the fire will not grow in size. Firefighters are moving in around the fire perimeter, scraping down the land until it is rock or non-burnable earth. Krueger said crews hoped to move in 300 feet from the edge of the burned area all the way around the perimeter by Friday night.

Firefighters received a supply of pumps and 15,000 feet of hoses Thursday night and are now using PortaTanks full of water and hose lines to irrigate the area, wetting and extinguishing hot embers.

“It’s now a systematic operation, opposed to before, when it was a catch-as-catch-can operation,” Krueger said.

Krueger said crews are confident they will have the fire 100 percent under control by Friday night, and are working the fire perimeter and identifying hotspots: burning embers, shrubs, logging slash or other material that may be hiding below the ash. Firefighters are currently “mopping up” and as of 2 p.m. Friday, 9 acres had been dug, raked, turned over and watered, Krueger said.

“At this time the word ‘fire’ does not mean flame but hot embers, coals, that need to be brought to the surface and extinguished by mixing with water,” Krueger said in an email. “This is where the work becomes hard and dirty.”

Trails north of the fire, including Fragrance Lake, remain open. Fire officials are advising people to stay away from the fire and not to use the Lost Lake trail.

Officials said as of Friday afternoon, the fire is 60 percent contained. Krueger expects the Southeast Washington Interagency Type 3 team to depart Sunday or Monday – and monitoring of the area likely will be transferred to a Type 4 or 5 Department of Natural Resources crew, as they are experienced with wildfires. The Type 3 team may leave a crew and engine behind to help monitor the area.

A Fire Boss aircraft arrived Thursday and worked for two hours, dumping 16 loads of water, each dump containing 600 to 800 gallons. Krueger said the Fire Boss and helicopter are not likely to be used further, but are still available if the situation changes. Crews still are using a bulldozer to help work on the perimeter of the fire.

While conditions in Washington state are right for wildfires to propagate, Krueger said crews are confident they have the fire under control, even in the case of high winds from the Puget Sound.

“We’re confident we have a good corral on this thing. This fire is surrounded and isn’t going anywhere,” Krueger said.

The number of firefighters working on the fire has decreased, as a crew was sent to a fire in Darrington, but a mop-up team experienced in dealing with hot spots was expected sometime Friday, Krueger said.

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

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 fires in British Columbia, according to the state Department of Ecology.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined. Krueger said fire investigators would continue to work, but there may not be a determination of the cause for some time.

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