Crews Struggling to Suppress Wildfire Burning in Olympic’s Queets Rainforest

Updated June 24th, 2015 10:50AM

Five days after the Paradise fire was first spotted  burning 13 miles from the trailhead along the Queets Rainforest in Olympic National Park, National Park officials made the determination to attempt to put the fire out. Started by a lighting strike, the fire was undetected in this remote region of Olympic National Park. Initially reported as a small 25 acre fire, the fire has grown to 381 acres, but has slowed its pace thanks to cooler, damper weather. The fire as of 10AM on June 24th, was an estimated 5% contained, but is now 949 acres in size and steadily growing. The fire has climbed in elevation, making it inaccessible to the crews in the area. The fire is burning, largely due to the fact that this is the driest year on the Olympic Peninsula since 1951, when the Forks Fire burnt 38,000 acres. This weekend’s weather is hot and dry, with a chance of more lightning, which could expand the fire or start more throughout America’s Rainforests. 

On June 19th, a 25 person crew started work to keep the Paradise Fire controlled.  According to a press release issued by Diane Abendroth, the Fire Information Officer, a helicopter will arrive today. The helicopter crew hopes to direct its power to the ridges, where the fire is burning in an area said to be too steep and unsafe for firefighters to fight from the ground.

“We are doing everything possible to minimize the fire’s spread, but right now we do not have many options,” said Todd Rankin, the park’s Fire Management Officer. “Traditional suppression tactics do not work in this fuel type since the fire spread is occurring in the forest canopy, not on the ground.”

Earlier reports said that the fire had burnt mostly undergrowth, according to a tweet sent by Olympic National Park. That was good news for the unspoiled old growth and wilderness in this typically soaked region of America. The Queets rainforest averages between 12-15 feet of rain each year, and is one of the most isolated regions in Olympic National Park. However, since it has been such a dry year, the fire is jumping above where the firefighters are currently located.

We will continue to provide updates when possible. The image above was taken on June 18th, 2015. The images below were taken on the 20th and 22nd of June. The full text of the press releases can be read below.

Paradise Fire in the Queets Rainforest. Image via inciweb.gov
Paradise Fire in the Queets Rainforest. Image via inciweb.gov
Paradise Fire, Queets River. Image via inciweb.nwcg.gov
Paradise Fire, Queets River. Image via inciweb.nwcg.gov

6/24/2015

Port Angeles, WA – Cooler temperatures and higher humidity yesterday slowed the Paradise Fire. It continued to move gradually upward on the steep slopes and grew an additional 150 acres in size; it is currently estimated to be 949 acres. Fire growth in the Queets drainage is expected to continue. Crews are carefully monitoring its movement and taking suppression actions whenever it is safe to do so. The objective of keeping the fire east of Bob Creek and north of the Queets River is being met and is expected to continue. A community meeting was held in Forks last night and 18 members of the public attended.

Today, similar fire activity is expected. The Pacific Northwest National Incident Management Organization (NIMO), under the command of Bill Hahnenberg, will meet with the current management team and shadow them throughout the day. The NIMO will likely assume responsibility for the Paradise Fire on Thursday morning. Current resources include 2 crews, 2 helicopters, 1 water tender, and support personnel. A total of 66 people are assigned to the incident.

Temperatures are expected to increase as the week progresses and lightning is in the forecast for this weekend. A fire information meeting will be held for the community tonight, June 24, from 6:00 – 7:00 PM at the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Ranger District office, located at 353 South Shore Road in Quinault. Fire Managers will provide an overview of the fire’s activity to date, discuss the long-term outlook, and share photos and videos of the fire area. The public is invited to attend.

 

6/21/2015 Paradise Fire Update

Port Angeles, WA, June 21, 2015 – The Paradise Fire continues to burn north of the Queets River in Olympic National Park. The west end of the fire is not moving and the wet line there is holding. The fire is located approximately 13 miles northeast of Quinault and has grown to 407 acres in size. It has moved into exceptionally steep terrain. Heavy mixed conifer fuels, snags, and the precipitous landscape pose a significant threat to firefighters. Rolling rocks, burning debris and falling snags are common in such areas. Smoke jumpers who had been staffing the fire were released today since the fire has spread into an area that is inaccessible. Firefighter safety remains a top priority, and crews will engage only when it is safe to do so.

“We are doing everything possible to minimize the fire’s spread, but right now we do not have many options,” said Todd Rankin, the park’s Fire Management Officer. “Traditional suppression tactics do not work in this fuel type since the fire spread is occurring in the forest canopy, not on the ground.” Lichens, growing high in the tree tops, are catching on fire and carrying the flames from tree to tree. Fire behavior analysts have determined that this is the Olympic Peninsula’s driest year since 1951, the year of the Forks Fire.

The weather forecast calls for continued hot and dry weather, and the Paradise Fire suppression efforts will likely get more complex. A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been ordered and is expected to arrive on Wednesday to assist the park. Current resources include two fire modules with 18 total firefighters, two helicopters, and numerous support personnel.

6/19/2015 Cool Weather Helps Paradise Fire Crews

Fire crews, including 18 elite smokejumpers, are making progress to confine the Paradise Fire along its western edge and adjacent to the Queets River.  Fire behavior was slowed by cool and moist weather, and only six additional acres were added to the fire on Thursday, bringing the total to 381.  An additional seven-person fire crew and helicopter will arrive today.  The helicopter will focus on a small area where the fire has reached a steep slope above the valley floor where it is not safe for firefighters to operate on the ground.

Large wildland fires have historically been rare in Olympic National Park’s rainforests.  They generally occur in late summer, during years when it is especially hot and dry.  This spring, however, the logs, dead branches, and hanging lichen in the rainforest are able burn at a time when they are usually soaked with moisture.   Fire is being carried by patches of these fuels, while the understory plants and deciduous trees are still too green and moist.  As a result, the burn pattern is patchy, with low and moderate severity effects.

Fire managers have decided to suppress the Paradise Fire due to concerns about this year’s fire season outlooks in the Northwest.  In a more typical year, a lightning-caused fire such as this may be managed as a natural ecosystem process within the wilderness.

For more information and updates about the Paradise Fire, visit: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4305/

Information about fires and fire history in Olympic National Park is available at the park website: http://www.nps.gov/olym/learn/management/fire-management-1.htm

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