Fires break out along Interstate 5 in Whatcom County

Several fires broke out Tuesday along Interstate 5 near Custer.
Several fires broke out Tuesday along Interstate 5 near Custer. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Firefighters in northwest Whatcom County battled about a dozen small grass fires Tuesday evening along a stretch of Interstate 5, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Sheriff’s deputies radioed around 5:20 p.m. that several large fires had broken out on southbound I-5 between the exits to Portal Way and Birch-Bay Lynden Road.

Crews from North Whatcom Fire & Rescue extinguished the flames in gusty 20-degree weather. The freeway wasn’t shut down, and as of 5:50 p.m. all of the fires appeared to be out, according to initial fire dispatches.

So far it’s unclear if the fires were set on purpose, said Trooper Heather Axtman, of the Washington State Patrol. Early reports suggested around a dozen fires were burning, she added, but that’s not a final count.

A man in an orange coat was sighted walking along the freeway carrying a gas can by the Birch Bay-Lynden off-ramp. Law enforcement stopped him and confirmed his car had run out of gas, Axtman said. He is not considered a suspect.

Fire investigators examined the scene and found the fires were concentrated in a 400-yard stretch along the freeway by the Custer rest area, Axtman said.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb