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Fires in North Cascades slowing as rain approaches

Video: How firefighters, city of Seattle employees saved the Gorge Powerhouse

The Goodell Fire in Newhalem spread quickly Wednesday, Aug. 19, and surrounded the Gorge Powerhouse on the Skagit River, but quick action by firefighters and Seattle City Light employees prevented the fire from reaching the structure. For more on
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The Goodell Fire in Newhalem spread quickly Wednesday, Aug. 19, and surrounded the Gorge Powerhouse on the Skagit River, but quick action by firefighters and Seattle City Light employees prevented the fire from reaching the structure. For more on

Though hardly contained, fires in the North Cascades have slowed down and could be halted following a wet weekend.

The Goodell Fire surrounding the town of Newhalem did not grow much Thursday night, Aug. 27, said incident management team spokesman Larry Lucas. That fire and the seven others making up the Upper Skagit Complex Fires have burned a total of 7,878 acres.

Increased humidity in the area has helped, even though it hadn’t rained much as of Friday afternoon, Lucas said.

The fires, sparked by lightning Aug. 10, are still mostly not contained, since the steep terrain in the North Cascades has prevented firefighters from setting up a perimeter. However, buildings in the area — including Seattle City Light Powerhouses, the North Cascades Visitor Center and the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center — have been protected by sprinkler systems set up by firefighters.

With the resources they have, firefighters can try to contain only a small portion of the Goodell Fire. Of that small portion, they have contained 37 percent.

Highway 20 remains closed from Bacon Creek through Rainy Pass. Newhalem and Diablo have been evacuated, but Seattle City Light employees and firefighters may still work in Newhalem.

Lucas said the fire is mostly active on all sides, but instead of moving quickly up the slopes, as many fires do, the flames are moving laterally along the slopes. That makes the overall fire move much slower.

Rain this weekend could be the most important factor in stopping the growth, Lucas said.

“We fully anticipate it being quite wet and rainy tomorrow,” Lucas said Friday. “These will be wetting rains, and a wetting rain is usually something that you need to make an impact to slow down a fire.”

Reach Wilson Criscione at 360-756-2803 or wilson.criscione@bellinghamherald.com.

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