Fire crews battle wildfire near Sumas in north Whatcom County
A brush fire east of Sumas burned about 10 acres on the side of Vedder Mountain on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 25.
The fire began near the intersection of Reese Hill and Frost roads in north Whatcom County, said John Gargett, deputy director of emergency management with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. Gargett said he believed the fire started at about 1:30 p.m.
“It’s still too early to tell, although it appears that a tree fell across a power line” near the intersection and started the fire, Gargett said at about 4:30 p.m.
Rich Dodd, a district manager for the Department of Natural Resources, also said he heard that was a possible cause, but that crews were still investigating.
At about 2:45 p.m., the fire had grown to about 5 acres, Gargett said. By 4:30 p.m., it had burned about 10 acres. Much of the area was smoldering, but firefighters were still fighting blazes in surrounding forestland.
No homes had been burned, and none were in immediate danger, Gargett said. Roads were closed and residents were not being allowed into the area.
Crews from Whatcom County Fire District 14 were fighting the fire, Gargett said at about 2:45 p.m. Firefighters had requested help from a DNR helicopter, which had made five passes by about 4:30 p.m., Gargett said.
The helicopter was still dropping water on the fire at about 6:15 p.m., Dodd said. Hand crews were digging the soil around the fire to keep it from spreading. The steep slopes made fighting the fire a challenge, Dodd added.
Personnel from the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office were also responding to the fire, along with Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office personnel and troopers with the Washington State Patrol. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Red Cross and loggers in the area were also helping any way they could.
Firefighters were working against wind from the northeast, Gargett said.
“Potentially any fire could spread in this kind of weather. Right now crews are feeling pretty good about where it is,” Gargett told reporters at the scene at about 3:45. “But the winds are of course picking up just a little bit, and we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Statewide, countywide and local burn bans went into place earlier this month. Dodd said the fire was a good example of why those bans are important to follow.
“Fire season is upon us and has been for a while. Extended periods of heat have really taken a toll,” Dodd said. “If we can take this and use this as a prevention tool for the public, we’d like that.”
The Bellingham Herald visual journalist Evan Abell contributed to this report.