SULTAN, Wash. - Since the Bolt Creek Fire started Sep. 10, state leaders say US 2 has closed at least seven times. With the fire still burning on the west side of Stevens Pass, the area between Index and Skykomish are now at a higher risk of flash floods, landslides and debris flows in the months ahead.
With that in mind, business owners met with state and local leaders in Sultan to talk about how to handle the impacts of disasters and potential road closures.
Duane "Bubba" Deach, the owner of Bubba's Roadhouse Bar and Grill, says when Highway 2 shuts down, businesses suffer. He wants leaders to be proactive this winter before disaster strikes.
"I think over the last several years, when the corridor gets interrupted, there is a lot of cash flow inhibited to the small business owners," said Deach. "Two years ago, we had snowfall so heavy that trees came over the highway. That trapped people in their homes. It also shuttered businesses and there was no readiness."
"We are pretty confident we are going to have slides of some sort on Route 2," said John Taylor, Director of Local Services for King County.
Thursday's roundtable discussion in Sultan focused on addressing the fire impacts.
The Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce Director, Debbie Copple, was on hand to share the story of struggling local businesses.
"You really need to think about the different types of industry outdoor recreation is not very visible, but for us, it’s a key component in our economy," said Copple.
She says the chamber is working with the state to have the area declared an emergency zone to access funds from the Small Business Administration.
"Even the big businesses like McDonald's are down 35%, and then our smaller businesses—like the cleaning companies that handle the vacation rentals—they have had almost no income," said Copple.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA, and other lawmakers joined the discussion. Cantwell says she sent a letter to the Forest Service Thursday, asking for evaluations on flood risk and prioritization of funding.
"It’s called the burn rehab program, to prioritize any funds there that might help us mitigate any floods, since we are about to hit the rainy season," said Cantwell. "We all know what that means."
Deach hopes local, state and national leaders can get out in front of the potential problems ahead.
"A plan is good, but if you don’t have the funding and tools to do it, you can’t execute," said Deach.
Copple says the chamber is working with the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County. She says they are planning to hold an event Nov. 10 at Angel of the Winds Arena to try to get private support for businesses as well.