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Now that it’s contained, crews work to expand perimeter around Chuckanut Mountain fire

Fire crews work to put out flames from the Chuckanut Mountain wildfire that started Tuesday, Aug. 1. The fire scorched 63 acres of an old clearcut on state Department of Natural Resources and private land six miles southeast of the Lost Lake Trailhead.
Fire crews work to put out flames from the Chuckanut Mountain wildfire that started Tuesday, Aug. 1. The fire scorched 63 acres of an old clearcut on state Department of Natural Resources and private land six miles southeast of the Lost Lake Trailhead. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The Chuckanut Mountain wildfire is under control and firefighters are now working to thicken the perimeter around the fire’s edge to 200-300 feet by churning the ground over and raking hotspots.

Officials said as of Saturday morning, the fire is 80 percent contained.

Michael Krueger, a spokesman for the Burnout Road Fire, said the fire will not grow in size and may be 90-95 percent contained by the end of Saturday. Krueger said the plan for Sunday is for fire crews to do “rehab” work, which includes taking down berms created by bulldozers and doing road work on the surrounding area.

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.

Krueger said firefighters haven’t seen flames for a few days. Roughly 100 people are still working to extinguish hot embers and coals that need to be brought to the surface and drenched with water.

“We’ve gone through once, and we’re going to go through again,” Krueger said. “Some of these hotspots are deep.”

The fire that charred 63 acres started Tuesday in an old clearcut on state Department of Natural Resources and private land six miles southeast of the Lost Lake Trailhead.

The fire is currently located in a pre-commerical timber plantation, with smaller sapling trees not yet ready for harvesting and standing timber. Krueger said some of the saplings are salvageable, while others were scorched.

Krueger expects the Southeast Washington Interagency Type 3 team to leave Sunday or Monday – and monitoring of the area likely will be transferred to a Type 4 or 5 DNR crew, as they are experienced with wildfires. The Type 3 team may leave a crew and engine behind to help monitor the area.

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.

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.

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.

Air quality conditions in Bellingham have improved to “good” Saturday afternoon, according to Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow.

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.

Tyler Urke: 360-715-2285, @tylerurke

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