Two fires touched off by lightning in the North Cascades are causing the closure of the Pacific Crest Trail from Cutthroat Pass to Harts Pass. Miners also have to leave as fire threatens their only road access.

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Two new lighting-caused wildfires near northern Washington’s Methow Valley are forcing the closure of a popular section of the Pacific Crest Trail, the long-distance hiking trail that’s used by day hikers and backpackers.

The fire danger also is forcing miners to leave the area in Washington’s North Cascades. And travelers along the popular North Cascades Highway can see one of the fires from the road.

“We are in the process of closing the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Cutthroat Pass to Harts Pass and also Slate Creek Road No. 700,” said Methow Valley District Ranger Mike Liu on Thursday afternoon.

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Wildfire growth
Twisp fire

“Our main concerns include predicted lightning igniting more fires, lack of firefighting resources and the large number of miners in the bottom of the Slate Creek drainage — there is only one road in and out of this drainage, ” said a statement from Liu. A “red flag” warning has been issued for north-central Washington as fire danger is extreme.

The two fires began after lightning rolled across the North Cascades on Wednesday.

The 40-acre Tatie Peak wildfire is burning in the Slate Creek drainage, about three miles from Harts Pass (a popular hiking area) and 20 miles northwest of the Methow Valley community of Mazama.

The second wildfire, the small half-acre Cutthroat Fire, is burning near the North Cascades Highway, about 9 miles southwest of Mazama. It was easily visible from the road (a scenic driving route through the mountains), according to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Firefighters hiked in to fight it late Wednesday and more arrived Thursday morning.

Another section of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington (the trail stretches from Mexico to Canada) already had been closed by the Blankenship fire burning near the northwest end of Lake Chelan, near Stehekin. The much larger Wolverine fire is burning nearby and threatening the remote community of Holden, which has been evacuated.