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Maui resident facing another frightening fire scene — this time in Bellingham

3 weeks after Lahaina, Kami Irwin helps family prepare for possible evacuation

A plane drops water over the South Lake Whatcom blaze.
A plane drops water over the South Lake Whatcom blaze Tuesday, Aug. 29. Chemicals are not being used — officials said it was a conscious choice not to use retardant and pollute the watershed. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Audra Anderson Assistant Editor

Maui resident Kami Irwin, visiting Bellingham for a disaster relief fundraising event at Overflow Taps, is watching a familiar and frightening scene unfold at her parents’ home on Blue Canyon Road.

Just three weeks after a wildfire devastated the island town of Lahaina, Irwin is packing up her parents’ belongings and preparing the outside of their home for the worst as a 30-acre wildfire spreads across a steep slope along Lake Whatcom.

Update: Air, ground crews fight growing fire on South Lake Whatcom slope

Maui resident Kami Irwin, left, stands outside a deli holding a crate of supplies in Maui.
Maui resident Kami Irwin, left, stands outside a deli in Maui that helped feed communities in need during the Lahaina wildfire. (Photo courtesy of Kami Irwin)

“We’re having almost, if not the same, thing [as] on Maui, where we’re getting help a little too late,” said Irwin, who has been coordinating a donation center at Maui Brewing Co. for victims of the Hawaii wildfires.

“We’ve been on the ground helping everyone [in Maui],” Kami added. “My old house is gone, all of Lahaina is gone. Some of my employees were missing.”

A rainbow shines behind fire damage in Lahaina.
A rainbow shines behind fire damage in Lahaina. (Photo courtesy of Kami Irwin)

Irwin, her parents and other residents along Blue Canyon Road are under a Level 2 evacuation, meaning they should be prepared to evacuate but don’t need to leave their homes yet.

“We’re doing everything — artwork, everything that’s valuable,” Irwin said of preparations.

Department of Natural Resources brought in a helicopter when the fire began around 5:30 p.m. Monday evening, Aug. 28, but the terrain was too dangerous to send ground crews to battle the blaze that night.

The first helicopter arrived to drop water on the fire around 10 a.m. Since then, two planes have arrived to drop water as DNR waits for two 20-person ground crews, expected at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.


A helicopter drops water on the fire as it flies over the dense smokey forests.
A helicopter drops water on the fire before 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29. Firefighting ground crews also were expected to attack the fire, which is in extremely steep terrain. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

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