Press Releases

DelBene, Cantwell, Schrier, Local Leaders Call for Federal Assistance in Bolt Creek Fire Crisis

Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, and Congresswoman Kim Schrier (WA-08) hosted a roundtable discussion with local leaders, transportation experts, firefighters, and business owners to identify how federal assistance can help residents recover from the Bolt Creek Fire along the Highway 2 corridor and find solutions to help prevent landslides and further damage to the region.

“Wildfires are becoming more frequent and powerful across our state. Flames and smoke threaten our lives, homes, businesses, and health. The Bolt Creek fire that followed a recent record-breaking wildfire season underscore that we need to be better prepared to prevent, respond to, and rebuild from these devastating incidents,” said DelBene. “I will continue working with our federal delegation to support our communities that were harmed by recent fires and help connect them with the resources they need to recover. We will also work to ensure the federal government provides state and local governments with the resources they need before, during, and after these tragic events.”

“The Bolt Creek Fire really brought us here today to talk about what we need to do to prepare for the future -- and I mean the immediate future. Besides awaiting to see the declaration from the governor that then helps us unleash federal support, we want to make sure that the Forest Service is doing its job and helping us assess what might be flood risks right now through the future,” said Cantwell. “So, we’re going to be sending a letter to the Forest Service today asking them to prioritize any funding for the Bolt Creek Fire burn program – it’s called the Burn Rehab program -- to prioritize any funds there that can help us in mitigating floods since we're about to hit the rainy seasons.”

“When we think of fires, sometimes we just think about the time when we’re all breathing in smoke and when homes are at risk, but the risk continues. Because as soon as the rains come, we have a landslide risk,” said Schrier. “The reason we’re here today is to listen and see how we can help to maintain transportation, exits, and safety here this winter when there's so much peril. We’re going to have to talk about using federal resources for replanting so that we can stabilize the hillside.”

Since the first closure began on September 10 when the Bolt Creek wildfire erupted, U.S. Highway 2 has closed seven different times. Currently, Highway 2 is open, however, due to the ongoing Bolt Creek fire on the west side of Stevens Pass, the area between mileposts 38 and 50 (between Index and Skykomish) is at higher risk of flash floods, landslides, and debris flow. The Bolt Creek Fire is one of the largest fires to burn in Washington state this fire season and has burned more than 14,000 acres of land over nearly two months.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has advised travelers along both directions of U.S. Highway 2 to check real-time traffic updates and to be prepared for sudden and unplanned closures. With winter fast approaching, the Washington State Department of Transportation is looking at issues that could close U.S. Highway 2 again.

The U.S. Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) program addresses areas that have been impacted by fire on Forest Service lands. This program protects the forest and surrounding communities from further natural disasters, like landslides and flooding, that can occur after the landscape has been burned by wildfire. Information collected by the Forest Service BAER teams is shared with other federal, state, and local emergency response agencies so they can provide assistance to communities and private landowners who may also be affected by potential post-fire damage. The Forest Service has released an initial BAER report on the Bolt Creek Fire and a final report is expected in the coming days.

U.S. Highway 2 is a key highway link for Washington state residents and for our supply chain. On average, 22,250 vehicles travel the route each day and it serves as the main evacuation path for local communities east of Monroe. Each year, the route carries 3.6 million tons of freight.