OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Large helicopters were requested this week to fight fires in Olympic National Park as blazes chew up acreage in the interior of the park.
The largest fire in the park, one that has grown exponentially in the last few days, was last reported at 3,554 acres as of Monday evening. That blaze, the Delabarre Fire southeast of Mount Christie — a peak about 22 miles northeast of Lake Quinault — was reported at 1,500 acres on Saturday after having covered 1 acre earlier in the week.
The Low Divide Fire has swelled to 312 acres and the Martins Lake Fire, also southeast of Mount Christie, was said to be 108 acres.
The two fires at Hurricane Ridge have remained largely unchanged over the last couple of days. The Eagle Point Fire at the end of Obstruction Point Road is reportedly 122 acres, while Hurricane Fire, just down from the parking lot, is 4 acres.
Over the weekend, smoke crept into the lowlands, especially in Port Angeles and Sequim, and some areas reported ash as well.
Increasing wildfire activity has prompted additional trail closures.
The Obstruction Point Road and Trailhead were closed soon after the fires began.
Over the weekend, seven more trials were closed to public access.
• Elwha River Trail from Elkhorn to Low Divide.
• Hayden Pass Trail.
• Dosewallips River Trail from Dose Meadows to Hayden Pass.
• Dodger Point Way Trail.
• North Fork Quinault Trail from Elip Creek trail junction to Low Divide.
• Skyline Trail from Elip Creek Trail junction to Low Divide.
• Martin Park Trail.
Hurricane Ridge Road remains open to the public.
Seven fires, all ignited by lightning Aug. 28 with several discovered later, are burning in the park.
Crews are managing the fires, but officials say that since all are in wilderness areas that pose no threat to people or property, the fires largely are being allowed to run their natural course.
However, helicopter bucket drops are being used to limit the spread of the Delabarre Fire to the northeast, park officials said this week. That fire is characterized by multiple spot fires within the rugged terrain of the ONP’s interior wilderness.
“Fire crews continue to leverage natural barriers — including mountain ranges, high alpine zones, and rivers — to confine the fires,” ONP officials said in a press release.
Crews have been using smaller, Type 2 helicopters capable of transporting nine firefighters and 300 gallons of water or retardant on the Delabarre fire, but larger, Type 1 dual-rotor helicopters with a 700-gallon capacity have been requested.
On Saturday, 50 fire personnel were operating in the park. Because of the smoke and ash swirling into communities, additional “control and confine” tactics were being used on the Eagle Point Fire to keep the smoke down, officials said.
A Type 3 incident management organization is to be established to allow for more firefighters and helicopters.
On Monday, the Diamond Mountain Fire northeast of Anderson Pass was 30 acres and the Mount Queets Fire was 4 acres.
On Friday, ONP and Olympic National Forest rescinded temporary fire restrictions, once again allowing campfires in established fire rings, stoves, grills or fireplaces. Campfires are permitted only below 3,500 feet elevation and are restricted in certain areas of the park and national forest.
The National Weather Service predicted a slight chance of rain Tuesday evening and this morning, with a higher chance of rain starting Friday and continuing through the weekend. The mountains likely will receive more rain than at sea level, said Dev McMillian, a meteorologist with NWS in Seattle.
“There is some discrepancy, but it looks like we’ll continue to stay within a cooler and much wetter pattern,” McMillian said.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.