Fire destroys lodge at Hurricane Ridge

Next steps will be to establish a cause

Firefighters from Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue and the Port Angeles Fire Department responded Sunday afternoon to a fire at the Olympic National Park Day Lodge. The building was a total loss and still was burning Monday morning. (Clallam County Fire District 2)

Firefighters from Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue and the Port Angeles Fire Department responded Sunday afternoon to a fire at the Olympic National Park Day Lodge. The building was a total loss and still was burning Monday morning. (Clallam County Fire District 2)

PORT ANGELES — The remains of the Olympic National Park Day Lodge were still burning Monday, a day after fire engulfed the icon built in the 1950s and burned it to the ground.

No one was in the 70-year-old structure, which has been closed since March 27 to undergo a two-year, $10.8 million renovation project funded through the Great American Outdoors Act. A reopening of the parking lot area had been planned for May 25.

The were no injuries, the park said in a press release.

“The building is a complete loss,” said Lee Snook, acting public information officer, on Monday morning. “It’s still an active emergency. We are coordinating with a certified fire investigator to hopefully find the cause and origin of the fire.

Snook said the park service’s Pacific West Regional Fire Marshal is in Port Angeles meeting with park officials and the contractor, JMG Constructors of Poulsbo, has been notified.

Contractors have been on site but were not working this weekend, Snook said.

According to Congressional aides, determining the fire’s cause and origin will determine the next steps.

If it was arson, the person would need to be identified and additional legal action could be taken.

If it was contractor error, the company’s insurance company would need to be contacted.

If it was natural causes, such as a lightning strike, then there’s a “disaster supplement” process where additional funds could be requested.

“We don’t have the investigator on site,” Snook said Monday. “We are not even talking about what comes next yet.”

Congressional aides said since replacing the building is not renovating it, Olympic National Park may have to go through the same appropriations process as it did when funding for the renovation project was awarded.

“The news coming out of Olympic National Park is absolutely horrible — I know how much the Hurricane Ridge Lodge means to Washington state families, visitors, and every community around Olympic National Park,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Whidbey Island, said in a statement. “I’m already in touch with federal agencies and will do everything in my power to ensure that the National Park Service has the funding they need to rebuild this important site.”

The lodge, originally built in 1952, was to have its roof replaced and receive upgrades to its plumbing, wiring and HVAC systems. During that project, temporary restrooms, including accessible and family restrooms, were planned to be made available, along with a temporary visitor contact station staffed by park rangers.

It’s unknown whether those facilities will be made available now that the lodge is destroyed.

“The loss of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is devastating for the Olympic Peninsula and for the more than 300,000 travelers who visit the iconic visitor center every year,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, said in a statement. “I am working with Secretary (Deb) Haaland and the National Park Service to make sure this historic lodge is rebuilt.”

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who grew up in Port Angeles, said he holds “cherished memories of time spent on Hurricane Ridge and understand its significance for our local economy.

“I’ll do all I can to secure resources to rebuild something worthy of this natural treasure,” he said.

Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue firefighters were dispatched at 4:39 p.m. Sunday to a reported commercial structure fire at the Hurricane Ridge Lodge, according to a press release from the fire district.

An Olympic National Park ranger, who had to drive down Hurricane Ridge Road to get cellphone service, reported the Lodge was engulfed in flames. The building had collapsed to its foundation by the time firefighters reached the site 17 miles up Hurricane Ridge Road.

Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue requested an additional fire engine from the Port Angeles Fire Department and an additional water tender from Clallam County Fire District 3, the release stated. The latter was canceled after the building was determined to be a total loss.

Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue responded with one fire engine, two water tenders, and one command vehicle plus 13 firefighters. The Port Angeles Fire Department responded with one engine and three personnel. Olympic Ambulance responded to the scene with one ambulance and two personnel to provide EMS coverage for the firefighters, none of whom were injured. The last unit cleared the scene at 7:38 p.m., according to the release.

The lodge was fine when a ranger went up to the ridge at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, so it is not known when the fire started, Snook said. The last image on the lodge’s webcam was frozen at 10:36 a.m. Sunday.

Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue Chief Jake Patterson wrote in a Monday afternoon email that he didn’t know if the park had anybody stay overnight to monitor hotspots.

“When we left there were still some hot spots and some burning debris in the pile that we couldn’t fully extinguish. The still-burning material was all contained within the building footprint and had nowhere to spread,” he wrote.

Marc Abshire, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director, said Hurricane Ridge excursions still will be offered to cruise ship passengers through the summer if the road is open to the top.

“We have yet to hear from the park regarding access during the summer,” he said. “My guess is we’ll still take excursions up to Hurricane Ridge, we just won’t have access to the lodge, which has some nice displays and, of course, restrooms.

“We would be doing it now, but the road has been closed, so no excursions. We plan to start Memorial Day weekend after the road is opened. People still will be able to drive up and down, there just might be porta-potties,” he said.

The chamber has worked with Clallam Transit on the Hurricane Ridge shuttle before and he doesn’t know why it wouldn’t still be offered, Abshire said.

Regarding the Ride the Ridge bicycle race held the first Sunday in August, Abshire said the lodge isn’t used for that event.

“We’ll still do it if the road is open to the top,” he said.

Olympic National Park Superintendent Sula Jacobs is the scheduled speaker at the chamber’s weekly luncheon at the Red Lion Hotel.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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