Bolt Creek Fire increases in size, but perimeter remains the same

Sep 13, 2022, 5:38 PM

bolt creek fire...

Photo from Northwest Interagency Coordination

The Bolt Creek Fire between Gold Bar and Skykomish has grown to more than 14 square miles — larger than Mercer Island — but despite the growth, fire officials are feeling more hopeful than they were a couple of days ago.

Hot, dry weather and strong winds from the east allowed the fire to quickly grow into a conflagration coming down the mountainside and threatening the towns of Index, Baring, Grotto, and Skykomish Saturday.

But this week’s spate of sprinkles and autumnal-like temperatures changes the game.

“The wind is settling down, it’s only at about five to six miles an hour coming out of the Northwest. Our relative humidities have come up — they’re near 87% — and we’ve got cooler temperatures,” said Rachel Lipsky, a public information officer with the Northwest Incident Management Team 8. “So all of those weather conditions, which are forecast to continue … really should help the effort.”

Many residents continue to reject evacuation warnings as Bolt Creek Fire threatens homes

Lipsky added that there are never any guarantees with a fire — flames can quickly start to spread or change direction — but right now, things look promising.

“The fire could make large runs again if the winds were to increase above 25 miles an hour,” she said. “However, we don’t currently have winds in our forecast, and we are continuing to get increased moisture.”

While the Bolt Creek Fire has grown from 11 to 14 square miles in the last day, its outer edges have not changed. It is just that more bare areas inside of those edges have now caught fire.

“We’re getting interior burning, so a lot of the fuels that are inside of the fire perimeter are continuing to get consumed. It’s kind of less of a spotty and more of a ‘the spots are meeting one another’ kind of thing inside the fire perimeter,” Lipsky explained. “We aren’t seeing growth in the fire perimeter itself.”

This means the fire has not gotten any closer to homes.

“We have more acres, but it’s the same footprint,” Lipsky said.

The Bolt Creek Fire is currently 5% contained. While full containment may be a challenge because the north side of the fire is the Wild Sky Wilderness, the goal is to get the fire controlled on the other three edges so that homes to its south are protected and the fire is not spreading. Firefighters hope to keep the fire north of Highway 2, between Heybrook Lookout near Index on the west side, and Beckler Road near Skykomish on the east side.

“They really have kind of a nice three-sided box, at this point,” Lipsky said.

Firefighters are also putting out hoselays, clearing brush, and digging trenches in front of homes in Index, Baring, Grotto, and Skykomish.

These communities are all under a Level 3 Get Out Now evacuation. However, law enforcement officials say only about half of the residents in that zone have left.

One Baring resident who evacuated to Gold Bar told KIRO Newsradio on Monday that many of his neighbors had stayed behind because “they’re retired, they’ve moved up there to live a nice peaceful life, and that’s all they have — so to leave their property means to give up everything, and they just can’t face doing that.”

Lipsky urged those people to leave as soon as possible — not just for their own safety, but for that of firefighters.

“Any people who are creating traffic in the area or needing themselves to be protected when they’re in an evacuation area poses a lot of additional challenges to firefighters whose primary mission is to deal with the fire,” Lipsky said. “So, for folks who would like to support the firefighting effort, we are requesting that if they’re in a Go Now evacuation area, they please go.”

There is no word yet on when the stretch of Highway 2 between Gold Bar and Skykomish may reopen.

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Bolt Creek Fire increases in size, but perimeter remains the same