Rain quenches red-flag warning for wildfires on North Olympic Peninsula

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

The exit of thunderstorms from the North Olympic Peninsula also lifted the area’s red-flag warning because of a threat of lightning-sparked fires, according to the National Weather Service on Wednesday.

“We’re not really expecting any more thunder, and the red-flag warning was issued because of thunder in the area,” said Josh Smith, meteorologist with the Weather Service in Seattle.

Rainfall Tuesday night also has alleviated fears of fires in Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest.

Originally set for the eastern and middle sections of the Peninsula on Monday, the red-flag warning was extended Tuesday west almost to the Pacific Ocean and covered all but a few strips of land along Hood Canal, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific coast.

By 11 p.m. Tuesday, the warning area had been retracted east to just about the line of the Cascade Range, according to the Weather Service.

A red-flag warning means critical weather conditions exist or are expected to develop in the near future.

The conditions can be caused by a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures.

Tuesday’s storms brought more than 200 lightning strikes to the North Olympic Peninsula and between 0.21 and 0.83 inches of rains to the lowlands over a 24-hour period, according to Weather Service data.

A monitoring station near Mount Townsend in Jefferson County logged the highest 24-hour precipitation amount for the Peninsula at 2 inches.

A station in Port Townsend saw 0.83 inches, while gauges in Port Angeles, Forks and Sequim measured 0.60 inches, 0.21 inches and 0.74 inches, respectively.

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport received 1.33 inches of rain in the 24-hour period ending at 5 a.m. Wednesday, most of it falling in the six hours since 11 p.m. Tuesday, according to KOMO News.

The storm dumped rain that flooded some streets and caused crashes in the Seattle area during the Wednesday morning commute.

The rain served to quell lingering concerns about small brush fires reported in Olympic National Park.

Two fires were reported Tuesday in the park, both likely caused by lightning.

One was seen along Hurricane Ridge Road on Tuesday morning and put out by park staff about two hours later.

Also Tuesday, park staff received a report about smoke from a second small fire in the high backcountry of Appleton Pass, between the Sol Duc and Elwha River drainages.

“We consider it very probable that any fires that [were] seen in an around the park [Tuesday] would have been put out by all the rain we had,” park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said.

As of Wednesday, park staff had not received any more reports about fires in the park, Maynes said.

Lisa Romano, public information officer for Olympic National Forest, said as of Wednesday morning, a fire crew was at the site of a small fire on the south shore of Lake Quinault about a mile from Falls Creek.

The fire had burned about two-tenths of an acre, Romano said.

“So with the rain, there’s pretty low potential for that fire to spread,” Romano said, adding that the cause of this fire has not been determined.

The wet weather was also the reason for a ban against recreational fires in Jefferson County being lifted Wednesday, said Bill Beezley, spokesman for East Jefferson Fire-Rescue.

It had been put in place Tuesday.

The Jefferson County ban on outdoor fires used to dispose of debris or rubbish will be in place until Sept. 30, Beezley said.

Clallam County expanded its burn ban Monday to prohibit all recreational fires, except within the park and in other controlled campgrounds.

As of Wednesday, there were no special fire restrictions in the park, Maynes said, though park officials continue to evaluate conditions and will make changes if necessary.

The state Department of Natural Resources expanded its burn ban, which is in place through Sept. 30, on Monday to include all open-flame sources on all DNR lands.

The ban continued Wednesday, according to DNR officials.

All outdoor burning on DNR-protected lands is prohibited under the ban, including recreational fires in campgrounds or anywhere on DNR lands.

Washington State Parks officials have also banned all campfires in state parks.

Romano said Wednesday there are no burn bans on national forest lands.

There are currently seven major wildfires burning in Eastern Washington.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 13. 2014 7:32PM
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