A helicopter drops water on one of three wildfires burning east of Darrington. (Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - US Forest Service)

A helicopter drops water on one of three wildfires burning east of Darrington. (Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - US Forest Service)

Wildfires grow east of Darrington, closing trails ahead of Labor Day

Several thousand acres in the Cascades — over 180 near Darrington — were burning this week as a long weekend approached.

DARRINGTON — Firefighters on Thursday were unable to reach two of three wildfires burning in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest northeast of Darrington.

The Boulder Lake and Lake Toketie fires were ignited by lightning strikes in mid-August, in terrain “that does not permit direct engagement by firefighters on the ground,” the U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday. Both fires had grown this week to roughly 90 acres.

Crews continued to monitor the fires and will take action to contain the Boulder Lake Fire if it moves into an area where it is safe to engage. The Toketie Lake Fire was reported to have many natural barriers, according to the Forest Service.

The Suiattle River Fire continued to burn Thursday outside the Glacier Peak Wilderness on Huckleberry Mountain. Crews and a helicopter were fighting the fire this week. The fire was estimated to have grown from 3 to 5 acres by Thursday.

Suiattle River Road (aka Forest Road 26) was closed indefinitely at the National Forest boundary for public safety — cutting off access to many popular trails northwest of Glacier Peak ahead of Labor Day weekend.

The following were closed: Buck Creek campground, the Boulder Lake trail, the Huckleberry Mountain trail, the Buck Creek trail, the Green Mountain trail, the Downey Creek trail, the Suiattle River trail, the Sulphur Creek trail, the Sulphur Mountain trail and the Tenas Creek trail.

Hikers and others who plan to recreate in the area should check with the Darrington Ranger District for updated road and trail closures. The station can be reached at 360-436-1155. The Forest Service posts live closure and fire alerts on its website.

Skies around Darrington were hazy this week as wildfire smoke rolled in. The state’s air monitoring network ranked the air quality as moderate on Wednesday. At that level, people who are especially sensitive to particulate pollution may want to limit time outside. Air quality may decline as the fires burn, the Forest Service warned, urging people to prepare for smoky skies.

Anyone who violetes road and trail closures could face fines of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail.

Other wildfires were burning several thousand acres in the Cascades this week north of U.S. 2, with most of the fires concentrated east of Mount Baker and west of Lake Wenatchee.

The Forest Service urged visitors to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to follow fire restrictions in their area when recreating, as hot weather and dry vegetation are ripe fire conditions.

A map of burn bans in the state is updated regularly on the state Department of Natural Resources website.

Temperatures through Labor Day weekend around Huckleberry Ridge were forecast to be sunny, in the mid-to-high 70s, but hazy with a slight chance of thunderstorms.

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

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