UPDATE — Crews attack fire near Lake Crescent

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Rangers were investigating Thursday whether a small wildfire that started Wednesday in steep, rugged terrain near Marymere Falls was caused by a person.

Park rangers “suspect it was human-caused since we have not had any lightning in the area,” said Rainey
McKenna, a park spokeswoman, adding that she did not know when the investigation would be completed.

On Thursday, crews established two fire lines to help keep the 1.5-acre fire, called the Upper Falls fire, from spreading.

The fire had not threatened any structures, and no hiking trails were closed, McKenna said, although the park was prepared to close trails if conditions changed.

The fire, which burned down some trees Wednesday that were between 25 and 30 feet tall, was burning mostly through underbrush Thursday, McKenna said.

A three-person park fire crew was smothering the areas of the fire with mud Thursday, and monitoring it to ensure it didn’t spread, McKenna said.

“Most of the area of the fire is just smoldering,” McKenna said Thursday.

“There are a few open flames where logs are burning, but they are not a concern right now.”

The three-person crew was expected to stay at the fire into the afternoon and leave for the evening if there was no risk of the fire spreading, according to McKenna.

Smoke might have been visible in the Barnes Point area and along U.S. Highway 101 near Lake Crescent, McKenna added.

Park staff learned of the fire burning about a mile southwest of the Lake Crescent Lodge at about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

The park fire crew began building fire lines Wednesday and were later joined by a 10-person state Department of Natural Resources team, which included inmates from the Olympic Corrections Center near Forks.

By Thursday afternoon — with wind speed low and relative humidity high — the crews had completed fire lines on the north and west sides of the fire, McKenna said.

The fire was naturally contained by a 75-foot cliff dropping downhill to the north and a creek to the east.

The cliff to the north of the fire is covered in moss too damp moss to catch fire early Thursday, McKenna said, though drying conditions could allow the fire to spread via this route.

The park crew members have a plan in place for this possibility, McKenna said, and will stay on scene until the fire is completely out to make sure no flare ups occur.

The DNR team left by 1 p.m. Thursday, leaving the park crew to monitor the fire.

Updated information on the fire will be posted to Olympic National Park’s fire management website at tinyurl.com/ONPFireUpdate and can also be found by calling the fire management recorded fire information line at 360-565-3125.

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

Last modified: August 08. 2013 6:45PM
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