Crime

Illegal campfire starts wildfire in Chuckanut Mountains

A wildfire burns through rough terrain in the Chuckanut Mountains on Saturday, June13.
A wildfire burns through rough terrain in the Chuckanut Mountains on Saturday, June13. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

An illegal camper sparked a small wildfire on Chuckanut Mountain, prompting several calls to 911 from people in Bellingham who saw a large column of white smoke rising from the treeline Saturday morning, June 13.

Two engine companies and command staff totaling eight firefighters from South Whatcom Fire Authority were dispatched to the area above Chuckanut Crest Drive and found an approximately 40- to 70-foot fire burning in rough terrain off the intersection of the Ridge Trail and the Lost Lake Trail, said Chief Dave Ralston. Ralston said a Border Patrol helicopter crew and a local property owner helped find the fire, which was near the Bellingham city limits and county-owned land.

“It had run up the side of a hill, mostly in undergrowth and small trees,” Ralston said. “It definitely had the potential to be a disastrous-type fire, with it as dry as it has been. We were lucky the wind hadn’t picked up.”

After South Whatcom firefighters located the fire, a state Department of Natural Resources wildland firefighting crew used hand tools to dig firebreaks and brought in small hose lines to extinguish the remaining flames, Ralston said.

That DNR crew remained at the scene until 9:30 p.m. Saturday and planned to check the site again Sunday, June 14, Ralston said.

Robert Mittendorf is a volunteer firefighter with South Whatcom Fire Authority. Reach him at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com.

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