Fires Continue to Burn in Olympic National Park, Prompting Minimal Closures

Towering up like an erupting volcano in the distance, the Godkin and Hayes fires continue to rage above the Elwha River in Olympic National Park. Transforming the view from Olympic’s Hurricane Ridge region from a picturesque quiet panorama to a blazing, smoke filled inferno, those visiting the Olympic Peninsula are hard pressed to remember seeing a fire like this. While the smoke and flames are intimidating and scary, it is important to remember that fires in the region are normal and an important part of keeping a healthy forest. Thanks to a huge flare up of the Godkin and Hayes fires, 2,188 acres have been burnt, up from just 350 acres six days ago. With above average temperatures returning to the region, the fires are expected to grow in size and select roads and trails will continue to be closed.

Currently, there are two backcountry trails in Olympic National Park closed, as well as one road. The Obstruction Point Road is closed at Hurricane Ridge to allow fire crews to continue to work on battling the Cox Valley Fire, which has burnt 56 acres. Smoke had been drifting over the road, so the closure is both to help crews and to protect visitors. The Cox Valley Fire has been receiving a handful of water drops, and growth has been limited over the last five days.

The trails that are closed are both located in the Elwha region of Olympic, where the Godkin and Hayes Fires are burning. The Hayden Pass Trail from Dose Meadows to the Elwha River Trail is closed to all access, but will limit very few visitor’s trips as this is a remote section traveled only by serious backpackers. The other trail closure is in a bit more popular of a region, along the Elwha River Trail. An eight-mile section of the trails from Chicago Camp to the Hayes Ranger Station is closed and will remain so until further notice. The 600 remaining miles of trails in Olympic National Park are open and waiting for your adventure.  A map of fire locations can be found here.

A webcam view of the smoke from the Hayes and Godkin Fires in Olympic National Park. Click to see a live view.
A webcam view of the smoke from the Hayes and Godkin Fires in Olympic National Park. Click to see a live view.

The naturally-caused wilderness fires are being managed for resource benefits. Park officials tell us that as fires like this burn,they are creating a healthy mosaic of burned and unburned forest. Fire crews are consistently monitoring the fires and making sure they are not going to cause serious damage to building or threaten the well being of campers, hikers and of course, the fire crew. We will provide more updates when possible. Again, for the most updated, official info, please refer to: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4906/

The coming forecast will have some relief for the fires, but again we must stress that these forest fires are not bad. Cooling temperatures and even a small chance of rain at the end of the weekend should reduce the growth of the flames, with cooler, more crisp air expected to be with us next week. For now, we can sit back and watch the fires burn from Hurricane Ridge and marvel at the beauty and fury of the flames against the old growth forests. Thanks to these fires, the forests will be stronger and healthier than ever.

Special thanks to Jim Stichka for the stunning cover photo of the fires with the full moon. 

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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