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Lake Whatcom Fire 50% contained; helicopter will drop water on north flank

Fire managers 'feeling really good about this,' DNR says

A helicopter drops water on the Lake Whatcom Fire Tuesday
A helicopter drops water on the Lake Whatcom Fire Tuesday
By Audra Anderson Assistant Editor

SUDDEN VALLEY — The Lake Whatcom Fire, now estimated to be 40 acres, is 50% contained headed into Friday morning, officials said.

Crews provide a containment number when they feel the fire is adequately confined within a secure area, like fire lines, said Chris Hankey, Department of Natural Resources public information officer.

The south flank of the fire, nearest to homes on Blue Canyon Road and the abandoned Blue Canyon Coal Mine along the southern shoreline of the lake, is secure.

“They believe the fire won’t burn over that line,” Hankey said. 

The Blue Canyon Road evacuation level has been reduced to 1, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, meaning a wildfire threat is in the area and residents should consider planning or packing. Residents along that road were previously under a “Level 2” evacuation, meaning they should be prepared to leave.

Crews will work to secure the north side of the fire Friday, using a helicopter to drop water on the cliffs. Hand crews will also check the greenery outside of the south flank fire lines to ensure there are no stray embers from the early days of the fire. 

Hankey said the containment number should go up as crews determine lines — currently built around about three-quarters of the fire — are secure. 

“Fire managers are feeling really good about this,” Hankey said. 

Lake Whatcom is back open to boaters ahead of the busy Labor Day weekend, but the public is asked to stay away from the south end of the lake. The popular Hertz Trail will reopen at noon Friday, but the lower south trail will remain closed as crews battle the fire. 

The fire was caused by a lightning strike Monday evening, and at the time, was estimated to be 5 acres, according to a recent incident command team update. 

By Tuesday afternoon, a specialized hotshot crew had arrived to attack the fire from the ground. Two more hand crews started working the fire on Wednesday — the best asset in battling the blaze on steep terrain, Hankey said. 

Aerial resources have helped on and off, depending on the hand crews’ needs.

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