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A fire started by a lightning strike is burning in North Cascades National Park approximately fifteen miles up-Valley from Stehekin, Washington. Several small fires were reported to the National Park Service on Friday, July 13, after a lightning storm passed through the area. Three North Cascades National Park firefighters were transported by helicopter to a fire on the north slope of Tolo Mountain that afternoon. This very small fire called the Bridge Creek Fire was contained quickly. Early Saturday afternoon, this same fire crew noticed more smoke 200 feet below them, and moved to begin containing the new fire.
The Tolo Fire, which was started by a separate lightning strike, was burning in small and limited pockets on rock ledges of a cliff at 4000 feet on Tolo Mountain. Late Sunday afternoon a burning snag fell off one of the cliff ledges and dispersed fire into a steep and heavily wooded area below the cliff. The fire has since begun spreading to the surrounding areas. As of noon, the fire is about 108 acres in size, but is expected to grow this afternoon. The fire is burning in very steep, rocky and dangerous terrain in a mixed conifer forest. In addition to the North Cascades National Park Fire Crew, smokejumpers from the Methow Valley were flown into the Stehekin airstrip Monday morning.
Because of the steep and rocky terrain with high danger of rolling and falling debris, air support will be an important tool. An air tanker has begun dropping fire retardant this afternoon, and one light helicopter is conducting water drops. A medium helicopter will also arrive tomorrow to assist with water drops. Fire management is now in the process of seeking additional resources. Tolo Mountain is located west of the Stehekin River between High Bridge and Bridge Creek camps approximately 15 miles up-Valley from the Stehekin Landing.
All businesses in Stehekin are open and are not affected by this fire. No trails or camps in North Cascades National Park Service Complex, which includes Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, or the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest have been affected by this fire. Smoke can be seen up-valley from Stehekin, but air quality in Stehekin is good.
Two small fires on Agnes Mountain in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the Lower Agnes Fire and the Upper Agnes Fire, were also started by the same lightning storm. Firefighters from the NPS and the USFS worked together to fully contain and control both fires by Sunday afternoon.