Scene on Tuesday along U.S. 2 (Snohomish County DEM)

Scene on Tuesday along U.S. 2 (Snohomish County DEM)

U.S. 2 to reopen Monday as Bolt Creek wildfire calms

The move comes two weeks after the fire north of Skykomish prompted the highway to close.

INDEX — U.S. 2 is set to reopen Monday, more than two weeks after it was closed due to the Bolt Creek wildfire.

The highway will remain closed through the weekend between Index-Galena Road and Fifth Street North in Skykomish. Local access has been permitted for many residents who show identification at the closure near Index.

Scene on Tuesday along U.S. 2 (Snohomish County DEM)

Scene on Tuesday along U.S. 2 (Snohomish County DEM)

Authorities announced Thursday morning that a safety assessment on the highway had been completed. The wildfire’s size was estimated to be 10,519 acres, and 96% of containment objectives had been completed at the time of the announcement.

“Please understand that while fire activity has slowed, the area remains hazardous,” authorities wrote in a press release. Local drivers were urged to follow posted speed limits, stay close to their own property and be mindful of the fire crews working along the highway.

Crews from Washington State Department of Transportation continue to clear debris from U.S. 2 earlier this week. (Inciweb)

Crews from Washington State Department of Transportation continue to clear debris from U.S. 2 earlier this week. (Inciweb)

On Thursday, wildfire flames were visible 1,000 feet north of Skykomish, Mayor Henry Sladek said. The fire erupted two weeks ago about 1½ miles north of the town. In the past couple days, it has spread to a steep hillside right across U.S. 2, the mayor said.

The highway’s closure has forced Skykomish residents to drive about an hour east to Leavenworth when they need groceries and other supplies. Reopening U.S. 2 will enable residents to make a quick trip to Gold Bar for day-to-day groceries and other errands.

Sladek said the biggest inconvenience the town has faced — aside from the proximity of the fire itself — is that mail delivery has been on pause for two weeks.

“I think they’re going to try to get mail up here tomorrow,” the mayor said. “But if anybody has needed anything critically, like medications and things like that, they’ve been able to get it if they’ve reached out.”

U.S. 2 is the only road into and out of Skykomish.

“Really, we’re the only ones who have been isolated,” Sladek said. “Along with cabin communities like Baring and Grotto.”

The mayor said air quality in Skykomish has varied day-to-day, based on the direction of the wind. On Thursday, he looked out his window and it looked pretty clear, he said.

Increased smoke production from the wildfire was anticipated going into the weekend. Current information on air quality may be found online at the Washington Smoke Blog.

Road crews continued working Thursday on U.S. 2 to clear fire-damaged trees or those that posed a safety threat, said RB McKeon, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“We certainly don’t take closing a roadway lightly,” McKeon said. “Most often, it’s done with the public’s safety in mind — whether it’s this closure of U.S. 2 or a pass closed due to snowfall.”

(Western Washington Type 3 Incident Management Team)

(Western Washington Type 3 Incident Management Team)

Snohomish County evacuation warnings:

• Level 1 (Ready): Index.

King County evacuation warnings:

• Level 3 (Go now): From the west side of Money Creek tunnel to mile post 48, plus Forest Service Road 65 (Beckler River Road).

• Level 2 (Get set): Baring and Grotto and area along U.S. 2 east to the Money Creek tunnel.

• Level 1 (Be ready): Skykomish.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; ellen.dennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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