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Forest fires keep locals hopping

Cooler weather may give local forest firefighters a reprieve, but they aren’t counting on it.

“It’s going to take a significant amount of rain to abate this current situation we’re in,” said Denny Coughlin, who works out of Enumclaw’s Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest Service office. He spent the past week overseeing operations on a half-acre area of the forest burning east of the Plateau.

“It’s been a busy week,” Coughlin said.

Things started to heat up for the Forest Service and local state Department of Natural Resources fire fighting personnel the week of the heat when the first barrage of lightning came through the area.

According to Coughlin, smoke was visible from the Silver Springs campground and several motorist coming down state Route 410 from Mount Rainier called to report the smoke, but it proved difficult to locate and pinpoint. It was eventually placed in an north of Corral Pass Aug. 3, but it would prove hard to access.

“It’s not very big by forest fire standards,” Coughlin said. “But it’s on a ridge in a hard to access area.”

Initially, he said, leaders were hoping to send in helicopter repellers, but the trees were too tall. Instead, a squad of five Boise Hot Shots from Idaho were called to respond. They made the 3 1/2-hour hike to the fire mid-afternoon Aug. 4. Friday, the Boise crew was still on site, but the fire was under control.

Fire fighters were also on hand from the Navajo Nation.

A local Forest Service team was also helping out with the Gold Hill Complex fire in the Darrington area, which included nearly 30 small fires started by lightning strikes July 25-30.

Local DNR crews were also busy putting out a blaze on their own property east of town, as well as sending a team east of the mountains to help out. As of Friday, the local fire was contained.

Coughlin said fortunately a lot of the lightning strikes were on the mountain ridge top. Fire creeps down at a slower rate than it rages up a slope.

The hot summer weather may have temporarily cooled, but fire danger is still extreme and the no campfires mandate still stands.

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