Fire crews battle wildfire near Sumas in north Whatcom County
Most roads southeast of Sumas have opened after a brush fire burned 10 acres along the southeasterly face of Vedder Mountain in north Whatcom County on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 25.
The only closure that remained early Friday afternoon, Aug. 26, was a stretch of Reese Hill Road between the 5600 and 5800 blocks, said Chief Jerry DeBruin of Whatcom County Fire District 14. He said he hoped the road would reopen by the end of the day.
Crews had the fire contained with a trail dug all the way around the burned livestock field and forestland by Friday morning, said Rich Dodd, a district manager with the Department of Natural Resources based in Sedro-Woolley. With the fire surrounded, workers were cutting down trees and digging up the fire load beneath the soil, then spraying down the hot spots, he said.
People who live in the area will likely see smoke for days, DeBruin added.
“They’re going to smell smoke and they’re going to see smoke but it should be nothing to worry about at this point,” DeBruin said. “It’s just a matter of going in there and making sure it’s put out.”
The fire began around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, DeBruin said.
DNR investigators were headed to the scene on Friday, Dodd said. Still, DeBruin said the likely cause was sparks from a tree, which fell on a power line on the 5800 block of Reese Hill Road.
The fire had grown to about 5 acres by 2:45 p.m. Thursday, and then 10 acres by about 4:30 p.m. Fire districts 1 and 14 were first on the scene. District 14’s response included six tenders, an engine, a brush truck, a utility rig and an aid car, DeBruin said.
Chief Mel Blankers of District 1 said he responded along with a two-person aid unit.
DNR crews amounted to about 25 people, Dodd said, and a DNR helicopter made passes with water dipped primarily from Silver Lake, just east of the fire, DeBruin said.
Between all the agencies, about 50 firefighters worked the line Thursday afternoon, DeBruin said.
Only one home was in immediate danger, he added – a house perched about three-eighths of a mile up the side of Vedder Mountain from where the fire began at Reese Hill Road. Firefighters kept the blaze about 150 feet away from the home. No one was inside the home, DeBruin said.
Winds as fast as 30 mph from the northeast, along with temperatures into the 90s and low humidity made fighting the fire a challenge, DeBruin said.
The Whatcom County Sheriff’s and Fire Marshal’s offices, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection also sent personnel to the fire.
The Red Cross and loggers in the area also helped, John Gargett, deputy director of emergency management with the sheriff’s office, said Thursday.
Crews brought much of the fire to a smolder by about 6:15 p.m. Thursday, DeBruin said. District 14 began sending crews home about 9 p.m. Most of the DNR crews left about 11 p.m., leaving one engine to stay and monitor hot spots overnight, Dodd said.
As Dodd said on Thursday, DeBruin said the fire emphasized the danger with dry weather.
“There’s so much fuel in these areas on the ground under the trees,” he said. “When it’s this dry, it’s not going to take much to get those going, that’s for sure.”