PORT ANGELES — Hurricane Ridge Road will be closed to visitors, including cyclists, for three days next week while debris is removed from the Hurricane Ridge Lodge burn site.
The debris removal on Aug. 15-17 is necessary to continue the investigation into the cause of the May 7 fire, which destroyed the 71-year-old structure, said Olympic National Park authorities in a press release.
The first stage of the investigation, which was of easy-to-access areas such as the outskirts of the burned area, was completed last month, and the debris removal is to facilitate the second phase, Amos Almy, park spokesperson, has said.
The second phase will require not only debris removal but also the shoring up of some of the burned structure to ensure the safety of the inspectors, Almy has said.
The Ridge was reopened in late June, with numbers of visitors limited by sanitation — specifically, the capacity of the 25 portable toilets Good Man Sanitation in Port Townsend is providing and servicing in a contract that began June 14 and runs until Oct. 13. The number of personal vehicles allowed to enter the park at Heart O’ the Hills each day was capped at 345.
To expand visitor capacity this summer and remain open for the winter season, the park must restore electrical, water and sewage systems that were destroyed in the fire. That work cannot begin until the entire fire investigation is over, park officials have said.
During the Aug. 15-17 closure, Clallam Transit will not operate the Hurricane Ridge shuttle, but Wilderness permit holders for the Obstruction Point area still will be permitted to enter.
The astronomy programs scheduled for 10:15 p.m. Aug. 15-17 will continue to be offered. Program attendees should not enter past Heart ’O the Hills entrance station before 9:30 p.m., the park said. Program attendees must leave Hurricane Ridge by midnight each night.
Astronomy programs are always subject to weather cancellations. Visitors should call the Astronomy Hotline on the day of the program to confirm it will be occurring: 360-565-3131, option 1.
At the time of the fire, the 12,000-square-foot lodge was undergoing a $10.8 million renovation funded by the Great American Outdoors Act and slated to be completed in May 2024. Upgrades had included improvements to the electrical and plumbing systems, as well as fire notification systems. No one was in the building, which had been closed since March 27 for the renovation.
A law enforcement ranger had reported at 4:39 p.m. May 7 that the lodge was fully engulfed in flames. Both Clallam County Fire District 2 and Port Angeles Fire Department responded to the fire. By the time the crews arrived, the building had collapsed to the foundation.
The National Park Service has not named the investigators of the fire. It “has contracted with outside investigators who are working jointly on a cause and origin with investigators retained by the contractor and subcontractors and their insurance companies,” Almy has said.
The building housed interpretive exhibits upstairs and a gift shop and small café run by Aramark, a park concessionaire. In the wintertime, the concessionaire rented out snowshoes and skis. The majority of the contents of the building had been removed before the start of the rehabilitation work.
For more information on visiting Hurricane Ridge, see https://www.nps.gov/olym/hurricane-ridge-post-fire.htm.