Smoke from the Bolt Creek fire silhouettes a mountain ridge and trees just outside of Index on Sept. 12, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Smoke from the Bolt Creek fire silhouettes a mountain ridge and trees just outside of Index on Sept. 12, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Humans caused Bolt Creek wildfire, authorities say

Specifics about what ignited the flames remained under investigation. Meanwhile, all evacuation orders have been lifted.

INDEX — Human activity sparked the Bolt Creek wildfire, but fire officials said Saturday it may take weeks before they know the specific details.

This weekend the incident command team quietly updated the cause of the fire from undetermined. A fire investigator confirmed the human cause, but “we don’t know anything beyond that,” said Amanda Monthei, a spokesperson with the team.

“In this case, there was no lightning in the area, so while it was undetermined for a while, the likelihood of it having been human-caused was high,” Monthei said. “This is confirming what we more or less expected.”

The investigation will continue “for weeks if not longer,” as the team tries to figure out more about what ignited the flames, she said. The Bolt Creek wildfire had burned an estimated 12,070 acres of wilderness along U.S. 2, north of Skykomish.

Also on Saturday, fire officials lifted all evacuation orders in Snohomish and King counties, citing a “reduction in fire danger.” The orders had been a Level 1 warning meaning “be ready.”

Monthei said there was now less fire than before near homes, campgrounds, roads and infrastructure. Flames were mostly burning north into the wilderness Saturday.

“It should put folks minds at ease,” she said. “However, there is always the disclaimer that things can change. It still is an active fire.”

After flames and massive falling tree debris again threatened U.S. 2 for a few days, the highway reopened for a second time late Thursday. Earlier the road had been closed for about two weeks as firefighters worked to contain the Bolt Creek fire — cutting off a main route through the Cascade Range.

Firefighters continued to monitor containment lines and remove burning material near control lines Saturday. Monthei said she expects teams to begin “suppression repair activities” this weekend, meaning they will fix damage and replace plants in areas where firefighters worked.

Shifting winds Saturday brought a plume of wildfire smoke wafting over Puget Sound. The fire season in the Cascades wasn’t expected to end until the region gets significant rain. And according to the National Weather Service, none was in the forecast for the upcoming week in the Wild Sky Wilderness.

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