Wildfire burns in Olympic rain forest

(UPDATED at 11:51 a.m. PT, July 3, 2015)

This photo and Facebook post are from July 2, 2015.

Paradise Fire July 2, 2015

****

(UPDATED at 11:15 a.m. PT, June 29, 2015)

Paradise Fire
Paradise Fire. Undated NPS photo.

Below is an update on the 1,025-acre Paradise Fire in Olympic National Park, released Monday morning, June 29.

****

“Crews on the Paradise Fire reported moderating weather and limited fire growth on Sunday, a change from the previous several days of high temperatures and low relative humidity. While other parts of the Pacific Northwest experienced lightning and thunderstorms, only intermittent sprinkles fell on the fire area. A smoke inversion also contributed to a quieter day. Yesterday’s highlight for fire crews camped out in the Queets River drainage was the delivery of a satellite communications unit. This will allow the firefighters to keep in closer contact with fire management officials at the Incident Command Post in Port Angeles. The unit improves safety conditions by giving the crews access to maps and creates more secure communications links in the event of an illness, emergency, or other situation that requires increased coordination of fire management activities. It also provides a convenience of telephone and internet contact with the outside world.

Yesterday’s milder weather conditions will be repeated for the next two days as a high pressure system breaks down and is replaced by an upper level low that should last until Tuesday. However, high temperatures and increased fire potential return mid-week and are expected to remain through the upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend. Crews will continue their work to confine the fire north of the Queets River.

Olympic National Park has instituted a ban on open fires in the park’s wilderness backcountry, including all locations along the coast. Campfires are permitted only in established fire grates at established front country campgrounds. The burn restriction will remain in place until further notice. Camp stoves may still be used in the park’s wilderness backcountry, but should be operated well away from flammable vegetation and forest litter. Because of the extreme conditions on the peninsula, Olympic National Forest has also implemented fire restrictions.

Information on this fire can be obtained on Inciweb athttp://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4305/, and by calling Paradise Fire Information at 360-565-2986. For real time information, visit the Paradise Fire Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paradise-Fire/831205013596015.”

Paradise Fire progression map June 28, 2015

****

(UPDATED at 11:12 p.m. PT, June 24, 2015)

The managers of the Paradise fire in Olympic National Park said today, after two recent infrared mapping flights, that the fire has been steadily moving uphill, and has now burned 949 acres.

The following photo was posted on the Facebook page of the Missoula Smokejumper Visitor Center with this caption: “Good sized trees on the Paradise fire in North Cascades National Park. This fire was jumped by Redmond and NCSB jumpers. credit: @ppbutton”. They may have meant the fire was in Olympic National Park. The firefighter in the photo, possibly a jumper, appears to be traveling light.

Paradise Fire big trees

****

(UPDATED at 3:39 p.m. PT, June 23, 2015)

Olympic NP weather

@OlympicNP Tweeted the above graphic above, saying:

A graph from the fire assessment team tells it all. May/June 2015 holds the record since 1895 for the driest on record.

You can click on the graphic to enlarge it slightly.

Here is an update posted by the Park on Tuesday:

Yesterday, clouds slowed activity on the Paradise Fire throughout the morning hours; fire activity increased when the clouds lifted in the afternoon. The fire remains north of the Queets River and the west flank is holding well. It continues to move to the east-northeast and into the high country where the terrain is exceptionally steep and inaccessible. Helicopters used bucket drops to cool the northwest corner. A reconnaissance flight in the late afternoon allowed fire managers to get a better view of the fire’s movement. An infrared flight last night revealed the fire’s exact location, which was mapped at 798 acres. A public meeting was held at the Vern Burton Community Center in Port Angeles; approximately 12 members of the public attended.

Today, crews will continue to monitor the fire activity and engage when it is safe to do so. The weather forecast calls for a chance of showers over the mountains tonight, and progressively warmer temperatures as we move closer to the weekend.Lightning is possible later in the week and this creates the potential for new ignitions.

****

(UPDATED at 8:33 p.m. PT, June 22, 2015)

A National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team has been ordered to manage the Paradise Fire in Olympic National Park. The team consists of seven people including the Incident Commander, Fire Behavior Analyst, Public Information Officer, and specialists in Operations, Planning, and Finance.

An infrared mapping flight Monday night will give the firefighters a better idea of the size and and location of the fire.

****

(Originally published at 5:17 p.m. PT, June 21, 2015)

Paradise Fire in Olympic National Park,
Paradise Fire in Olympic National Park, June 17, 2015. NPS photo.

A rare early summer wildfire in Olympic National Park’s rain forest has burned a surprising 407 acres. Fire behavior analysts have determined that this is the Olympic Peninsula’s driest year since 1951, the year of the Forks Fire.

The Paradise Fire, 13 miles northeast of Quinault, 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 on June 21 since after the fire 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.

Map of Paradise Fire
Map of Paradise Fire, June 17, 2015. Since this map was made, the fire has spread up the slope onto steeper slopes.

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.

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. Current resources include two fire modules with 18 total firefighters, two helicopters, and numerous support personnel.

Paradise Fire environment
Paradise Fire environment. NPS undated photo.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+