“It started on a dark and stormy night… and it ended on a darker and stormier night.” 

It seems like this should have happened earlier, but the fire in the Queets River Valley of Olympic National Park has finally been extinguished. After nearly two feet of rain fell in the rainforests of Olympic National Park in just under 10 days, the Paradise Fire has ceased to be.

In late May of 2015, a rare thunderstorm moved above the Queets Rainforest. Sometime in the night, a flash of lighting jolted down, striking the forest floor below. Slowly smoldering the lightning strike say in one of the more desolate locales in Olympic National Park, slowly burning a log it had struck.  For over a week, the small fire lay undetected before flaring up and becoming a real forest fire. The fire, known as the Paradise Fire, was spotted by plane during a flight on June 15th, 2015, by Olympic National Forest staff and reported to officials and first reported by Douglas Scott of The Outdoor Society. For over 170 days, the Paradise Fire in the Queets Rainforest of Olympic National Park burnt, before finally becoming fully extinguished in late November. The fire burnt over four miles of pristine and remote rainforest, and is the largest fire in Olympic National Park history. 

It seems weird to think that on November 20th, 2015, the Paradise Fire had finally been extinguished. For nearly half a year, one of America’s most pristine and isolated rainforest burnt. The Queets River Valley receives over 14 feet of rain each year, and yet, the fire kept burning clear into November.  Olympic National Park’s Paradise Fire wasn’t huge compared to other devastating wildfires during the drought of 2015, and it didn’t destroy an entire river valley, yet damp location of the Queets Rainforest made this fire quite impressive. Burning four square miles ( 2,796 acres) of pristine rainforest wilderness, the Paradise Fire was visible from just a few trails in Olympic National Park. In July, The Outdoor Society hiked to a ridge above the fire and reported what we saw in an article titled Watching the Olympic Rainforest Burn.

The fire was large, smoke filled the air, and animals flocked over the steep ridges to the safety of the Quinault River on the opposite side of the fire. Burning for months, most assumed the Paradise Fire in the Queets Rainforest had been out for quite awhile, making today’s news come as a shock.

The Paradise Fire is in the history books as the largest natural fire to burn in Olympic National Park, though few actually even noticed it was burning.

While most who visit Olympic National Park will never see the damage or know that there was a fire burning, the rainforest will show the scars of this fire for generations to come. Tucked away, upriver in the remote Queets River Valley, the Paradise Fire burnt old growth timber, and forever changed the way the forest looks. Hopefully, these fires aren;t the new normal.

Good riddance, Paradise Fire, you won’t be missed.

See pictures and video from the fire here.

Looking to the Queets River Valley, the Pardise Fire and Pelton Peak in Olympic National Park. Image courtesy of Doug Scott of The Outdoor Society.
Looking to the Queets River Valley, the Pardise Fire and Pelton Peak in Olympic National Park. Image courtesy of Doug Scott of The Outdoor Society.