PORT ANGELES — Firefighters followed the smell of smoke to find a small brush fire on Tumwater Creek.
It took 45 minutes for Clallam County Fire District No. 2 firefighters and volunteers to find the source of the smoke reported by two people in the area south of U.S. Highway 101 near Tumwater Truck Route beginning at 4:08 p.m. Monday, Deputy Chief Jake Patterson said in a news release issued Tuesday.
Several Fire District No. 2 units were staged near the site of the old Haggen grocery store at 114 E. Lauridsen Blvd. until the fire could be found.
Eventually, firefighters found a blaze of about 75 feet by 30 feet burning in the brush along Tumwater Creek, Patterson said.
“It was slow-moving except for occasional bushes which would torch and burn rapidly,” Patterson said.
The search was hampered by poor access to the area, which had no trails or roads leading to the area of the fire, so crews had to hike through brush to find the blaze.
Once they found the fire, crews had to carry in portable pumps, hose, hand-tools and chain saws before they could start fire suppression efforts — an effort that took about a half-hour, Patterson said.
Crews made access from both the east side near Reservoir Road and west side near Doyle Road while requesting assistance from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Firefighters used the portable pump to draft water from Tumwater Creek and deployed hose lines around the fire to stop the spread and begin extinguishing it. Wielding hand tools and chain saws, they cleared brush and burning material in and around the fire area, Patterson said.
Moss covering large maple trees caught fire and spread the blaze to the canopy of the trees, Patterson said.
Intermittently, small chunks of burning moss would fall from the trees to the ground, he added.
Hose lines initially would not reach the moss burning in the higher limbs because the fires were approximately 30 feet above ground level, he said.
Eventually, crews were able to extend the hose line high enough to get some water to the upper branches but were unable to completely extinguish the smoldering moss.
State DNR firefighters arrived and assumed responsibility for putting out any remaining hot spots, digging fire lines around the fire to keep it contained and ensuring the moss fires burning in the upper parts of the trees were no longer a hazard, Patterson said.
Once DNR took over control of the fire, Fire District No. 2 units packed the equipment back out from the drainage, and units started clearing the scene at approximately 8 p.m., Patterson said.
The cause of the fire could not be immediately determined and remains under investigation, Patterson said.