Seattle City Light started evacuating employees Wednesday from the town of Diablo and helped evacuate visitors at the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake and at the Ross Lake Resort as the Goodell Creek Fire approached facilities at the utility’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project.
The fire was burning on the north side of Highway 20 in Newhalem across from City Light’s Skagit administration building and east of the Gorge Powerhouse. Prevailing winds were pushing the fire east toward Diablo.
Highway 20 between the utility-owned towns of Newhalem and Diablo was shut down by a fallen tree and numerous rocks loosened by the fire.
No injuries have been reported. All City Light employees and their families are accounted for. Two employees did leave Newhalem earlier in the day after complaining of respiratory difficulties from the smoke.
City Light was operating its three dams remotely, but the fire forced the utility to shut down the transmission lines that carry electricity from the hydroelectric project. Spillgates at all three dams were being opened to maintain river flows to protect fish. The inability to deliver electricity could cost the utility about $100,000 per day.
Six City Light firefighters with two fire engines were working to protect people and property from the blaze. One crew was working with the National Park Service. The other was defending the Gorge Powerhouse.
Skagit Tours scheduled for Thursday through Sunday have been canceled.
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.