Update 8/4, 11 AM:
Wildland firefighting crews are back at work today on Ballinger Island after making significant progress yesterday in extinguishing the peat bog fire that has smoldered there since last Wednesday.
“Our major concern has been the smoke and the impact it’s having on the community. We are definitely making progress. There was no smoke was visible from the shoreline this morning when crews started work,” said Leslie Hynes, public information officer for Snohomish County Fire District 1. “Firefighters have just a few hot spots to mop up and plan to dump another 30,000 to 40,000 gallons on the island today to prevent any flare ups.”
About a dozen wildland firefighters from a regional strike team have been using hand tools and hoses supplied by floating pumps to fight back the fire. They are from fire departments in rural Snohomish County. Today’s crews are from Fire District 22 in Getchell led by Incident Commander Scott Coulson from Fire District 26 in Gold Bar. “We’re grateful for their help and expertise in wildland firefighting,” Hynes said. “We also appreciate the assistance we’ve received from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office for providing boats and a helicopter for aerial water drops last week.”
As crews continue work on the island, they ask that boaters and swimmer stay away. “It’s a dangerous place to be, even for firefighters in protective gear,” Hynes said.
To see the previous updates related to the Lake Ballinger fire, including videos and photos, go here.
If you have driven or walked by Lake Ballinger in the past couple days, you probably noticed that the island is still smoking but firefighting crews have done a good job putting out the fire under difficult conditions. There still are a lot of hot spots on the island and the peat makes it difficult to tell when all hot spots have been extinguished.
Wildland crews were deployed on the island over the weekend. The surface area producing smoke has been reduced from about 90 percent of the island to about 20 percent. “It’s still a very challenging fire. Our biggest concern continues to be the smoke and the impact it is having on the community,” said Leslie Hynes, public information officer for Snohomish County Fire District 1.
Firefighters had to cut trails through the vegetation to get to the fire. “We have areas of tinder-dry brush that’s 5- to 8-feet tall and some pockets of trees we are trying to protect from the fire,” Hynes said. “At the same time, we have fire burning underground in the peat and the root systems that breaks through occasionally, causing the brush and trees to torch up unexpectedly. Trees with damaged root systems are also starting to fall, which creates another hazard for firefighters.”
Wildland firefighting crews will be working on the island all day today using hand tools and hoses supplied by floating pumps to extinguish hot spots and mitigate smoke. No aerial water drops are planned because the helicopter is unavailable today.
“We know the smoke is an annoyance, especially when people want to have their windows open because of the hot weather. We’re doing all we can with the resources at our disposal to remedy the situation as quickly as possible,” Hynes said.
Thanks to an MLTnews.com reader, the fire and police department now know who the people are that left the BBQ on the island, which caused the fire in the first place.
If the offending parties were charged, the only likely charge would be a misdemeanor for reckless burning. There may also be some related fines from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to recoup some of the costs of fighting the fire.