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Yes, you’re seeing flames and smelling smoke along I5 near Custer — here’s what it is

Flames from a burn permitted by the DNR appear above the tree tops in a photo taken Thursday, March 15, 2019, from the 2700 of Willeys Lake Road east of Custer.
Flames from a burn permitted by the DNR appear above the tree tops in a photo taken Thursday, March 15, 2019, from the 2700 of Willeys Lake Road east of Custer. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Many Whatcom residents have reported seeing a large fire northeast of Interstate 5 near the Birch Bay Lynden Road exit the past few days and have smelled smoke in the area, but North Whatcom Fire and Rescue says it’s nothing to worry about.

“It’s a permitted DNR (Department of Natural Resources) burn,” North Whatcom Division Chief Henry Hollander told The Bellingham Herald. “It’s probably a 20- to 30-acre burn, but it’s permitted by the DNR. .... We’ve received multiple calls that think it’s a house fire, but it’s just a permitted burn.”

The most recent call came in at 8:22 p.m. Thursday night to the 2300 block of Willeys Lake Road, just east of Custer.

Social media reports said flames were high enough that it appeared the trees were on fire.

The good news is DNR spokesperson Janet Pearce says Friday is the final day of the permit. She added that the burns now should help reduce the chance of wildfire on the land this summer when conditions get hotter and drier.

“The resident had about 75 tons to burn, but after today he will not be lighting any more,” Pearce told The Herald. “Residents will see smoke the next couple of days as the fire burns out, but it should be done soon.”

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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