Evacuations eased for Index, Washington, as wildfire slows
INDEX, Wash. (AP) — The growth of a wildfire northeast of Seattle near Stevens Pass has slowed, allowing mandatory evacuations to be eased for the town of Index, Washington, days after the blaze sent residents and hikers scrambling to leave.
Officials said Tuesday afternoon that movement of the Bolt Creek Fire had slowed in the past 24 hours and that residents of Index could return home. Those residents should be set to leave again at a moment’s notice if conditions change, officials added. Mandatory evacuations remained for Grotto and Baring.
The fire started Saturday about 1.5 miles north of Skykomish during hot, dry and windy conditions forecasters warned could result in explosive fire growth. Smoke from the fast-growing fire dropped ash in Everett and blew smoke into Seattle.
As of Tuesday, the fire had burned about 14.75 square miles (38 square kilometers) and in places had burned down to U.S. Highway 2, which remained closed in that area. The highway remains unsafe to travel because of rock fall and fire debris, officials said.
The cause of the fire, which was 5% contained Tuesday, is under investigation, officials said.
Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.