BRINNON— The quickly growing Maple Fire was not close enough to be a threat to residents along the Hood Canal by Tuesday, but smoke from the wildfire had moved into the area and soon traffic will be increased in Brinnon due to the arrival of additional firefighting personnel.
The Brinnon Fire Department is being used as a staging area for incident command. Personnel have moved their operations to the station where they have access to the internet and other facilities.
Janet Pearce, state Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman, said the fire has been upgraded to a Type 2.
“Because of the complexity of the fire and the terrain it’s in, more resources are being added,” Pearce said Tuesday.
“The fire was originally considered a Type 3. Now we are preparing for a Type 2 team to arrive Tuesday evening.”
A Type 2 incident means that more qualified firefighters will be called for duty, and the status allows for more resources and more management.
Authorities tracking the Maple Fire west of U.S. Highway 101 and northwest of Hama Hama in the Olympic National Forest in Mason County said it had burned 350 acres and was 5 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon. It began as a small, 5-acre blaze and grew quickly to 15 acres in a few hours.
No cause has been determined for the blaze that authorities said was first reported Saturday morning.
Pearce said the fire is burning in a remote area of heavy timber with old growth cedar, mature fir and spruce as fuel.
“The town of Brinnon is not in jeopardy,” Pearce said.
No structures were reported to be in danger.
Tents have popped up on the Brinnon Fire Department grounds to create a small city.
Smoke is not affecting the station, but there is smoke in the area.
“It’s very hazy here and we can see the smoke. However we can’t smell it yet,” Cindy Wihley, a clerk at the Brinnon General Store, said Tuesday afternoon.
”It seems clearer today than Monday. We know we aren’t in any danger as it is pretty far away along the ridge.”
Wihley said the store has been very busy since opening at 7 a.m., selling gas and food to the firefighters who are in town. She said she was told to expect about 150 additional crew members to help with the fire.
“Right now, 80 firefighters from Olympic National Forest and the DNR are working the line,” Pearce said. “Black Hawk helicopters from the National Guard are making water drops on the west side because of the steepness of the terrain.
“The effort is on the eastern flank to stop its growth where it is easier to access. We have bulldozers and a masticator at work on this side.”
Pearce said both the Jefferson Ridge Trail and Elk Trail in the Olympic National Forest are directly impacted by the fire and have been closed. Forest Service roads 2401, 2412 and 2480 also are closed to public access. Flying in the area is prohibited, and that includes drones.
Lena Lake was still accessible, but Pearce cautioned that the smoke was heavy and perhaps the area should be avoided.
The Hamma Hamma road leading to Lena Lake was on a Level 1 evacuation notice which means residents should stay alert and make preparations to evacuate if required to do so.
Tuesday’s temperature was in the low 90s. The forecast is for hot, dry weather over the next several days.
Pearce reminded everyone that conditions are dry.
“Make sure campfires are out completely and are cool to the touch,” she said. “And be cautious when parking on tall grass that could catch fire easily. If you see smoke, call 911 immediately.”
Fire danger in both Jefferson and Clallam counties is high, according to the DNR.
Yard-clearing or land-clearing fires are prohibited on the North Olympic Peninsula but recreational fires are permitted within certain limits. A temporary statewide restriction on target shooting and other gun use is prohibited at wildlife areas, boat launches and other water access.
Camp fires can be a maximum of 3 feet in diameter and two feet in height when they are contained within a concrete or metal fire pit in an approved campground or on private property with the owner’s permission.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]