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They called 911 about a wildfire, but it’s not a wildfire

Bellingham Fire Department published this photo on social media Monday night of the fire above Lake Samish.
Bellingham Fire Department published this photo on social media Monday night of the fire above Lake Samish. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Residents of Whatcom and Skagit counties are flooding 911 dispatchers about a fire on Lookout Mountain, but there’s nothing to worry about, fire officials said.

More than 40 calls to 911 were received Monday in Whatcom County alone, said Assistant Chief Bill Hewett of the Bellingham Fire Department, who posted about the fire on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a permitted logging slash burn being managed by the state Department of Natural Resources, he said.

“Everybody was seeing the smoke, and as it got dark, it got worse” and 911 calls increased, Hewett said.

Richard Dodd, the DNR’s Northwest Region wildfire district manager, said the fire is limbs and natural debris left behind by logging recent operations. Such slash burns prevent wildfires in dry months by ridding the cleared areas of material that can burn. It also readies the spoil for new tree growth, Dodd added.

It’s on private property above the 2,000-foot level on Lookout Mountain, above the Plantation Rifle Range near Lake Samish.

“It’s very visible, to say the least,” Dodd said. “There’s little threat of spread. We’re keeping an eye on this. This fire really isn’t going anywhere.”

Dodd said the vegetation is moist from more than a month of rain. A recent ridge of high pressure has created an inversion layer that could trap smoke near the ground, but he said DNR officials are confident that the smoke will rise above the inversion layer and not create breathing issues.

He said the permit is valid for two years with conditions, adding the permit is issued by tonnage of debris, rather than by acreage.

This burn is listed as 300 tons, he said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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