Wildfires burn areas for the first time "in a long time"

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

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MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - Highway 9 was shut down for hours east of Mount Vernon as helicopters pounded a wildfire with aerial water drops.

The Big Rock 2 fire torched a hillside and threatened at least one home. By Thursday afternoon, the fire was under control but dry weather could cause wildfires to run in areas that have not burned for a long time.

It wasn't the fire burning a few feet from her home that woke up Rita Kellerman this morning. It was a sheriff's deputy banging on her door.

"When I came outside to answer the door you could see flames coming off the rock." said Kellerman.

"I was pretty nervous," she said.

The fire was reported at 2:15 a.m. and grew to about an acre in dense timber and steep terrain.
Crews closed SR 538 to HWY 9 as a helicopter dropped water along Kellerman's backyard — all to protect her house.

"The big house behind us has great defensible space," said Mount Vernon Fire Marshal Steve Riggs.

Riggs says Kellerman helped firefighters by creating a rock and grass buffer between the house and the hillside. Riggs says crews are concerned these days that dry weather is drying out fuels faster than usual and raising the fire danger.

"If we don't get any precipitation and cooler weather, I think you're gonna find them in areas that we haven't seen them in quite a few years," said Riggs.

In California, law requires homeowners to build 100 feet of clear, defensible space.

In Washington, the same rule is recommended, not required.

A burn ban is in effect on DNR land but officials already say this fire was caused by a person, not a recent lightning storm.

"Kids have campfires up there all the time. I think that's the cause," said Kellerman.