Expected rain may help with park fires

Crews removed due to weather forecast

PORT ANGELES — Rain over the coming week is expected to temper fire activity inside Olympic National Park, but officials can’t say if there will be enough precipitation to fully extinguish the fires.

Fire managers are reducing the number of fire crews in the park with the coming weather, said Molly Pittman, public affairs specialist with Olympic National Park, and all crews have been removed from fire areas to reduce the risk of accidents in the steep and remote terrain.

There were 57 fire personnel in the park Monday and two types of helicopters combating the fires.

“We expect this coming weather system to put a damper on (the fires),” Pittman said. “We can’t say if this will be a season-ending event.”

The largest fire currently burning in the park, the Delabarre Fire, was reported at 4,165 acres as of Sunday, and the second-largest fire, the Low Divide Fire, was at 340 acres.

The Delabarre Fire grew precipitously last week, taking advantage of a dry period, Pittman said, and the fire is located in an area burned by previous wildfires. Other fires in the park have largely remained at a consistent size for several weeks. All seven fires in the park were started in an Aug. 28 lightning storm.

The National Weather Service is forecasting showers and light rain through Friday with a chance of thunderstorms.

“Steady rain will change over to showers (Monday) afternoon along with a thunderstorm or two,” NWS said. “Shower activity will decrease later (Monday night) before another impulse rounding the broad upper trough offshore leads to an increase in showers during the day Tuesday along with a continuing chance of thunder, especially near the coast.”

New rainfall amounts are forecasted to be between a tenth and a quarter of an inch, with higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

The fires burning inside ONP are located in remote areas in steep terrain and pose little threat to people or property. Wildfires are a natural part of forest ecosystems and fire managers are allowing the fires to mostly run their course.

Fire crews have been deployed specifically to protect the park infrastructure that is threatened, including wilderness cabins and a road bridge.

Hurricane Ridge Road remains open to the public, but several trails have been closed.

Trails closed until further notice include:

• Elwha River Trail from Whiskey Bend Trailhead to Low Divide

• Bailey Range Traverse beyond Cat Basin

• Long Ridge Trail to Dodger Point

• 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

• Obstruction Point Road and Trailhead


Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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