Olympic National Park wildfires bring trail closures; Camp Wilder shelter threatened

23 August 2016

published by http://www.ptleader.com


USA Wildfire activity in Olympic National Park expanded, as expected, during the recent "red flag" heat wave, and has resulted in more trail closures.

Fire managers are preparing for the next warm weather wave due later this week by having equipment and materials in place to protect remote park infrastructure such as shelters, wooden footbridges, and trail signs, park officials reported Aug. 22.

There are four wildfires in the Olympic National Park wilderness. Both the Hayes and Godkin wilderness fires experienced moderate growth Sunday, Aug. 21. Fire crews reported three new spot fires from the Godkin Fire in the Elwha River valley. Camp Wilder shelter is about 100 yards north of one of the spot fires. Crews who found the spot on Sunday were directed to take suppression actions, and successfully limited the spread overnight. Monday morning a helicopter delivered a pump and hoses.

Gusty winds blew embers from the Godkin Fire onto vegetation on a river bar of the Elwha River. Fisheries biologists are to survey pools in the Elwha River to identify the best pools firefighters can draw water from, to minimize potential impacts to fish.

Monday afternoon, an 8-mile section of the Elwha River Trail was closed from the Hayes River Ranger Station south to Chicago Camp. The trail remains open from Hayes River north to the Whiskey Bend Trailhead and from Chicago Camp south.

Wilderness permit holders for that area are to be apprised on the closure and provided information about alternative routes.

In addition to the closure of this segment of the Elwha River Trail, there are two other fire-related closures in Olympic National Park. About eight miles of the Hayden Pass Trail are also closed, from the Hayes River Ranger Station to Dose Meadows to the east. The Obstruction Point Road remains closed.

There are no park structures threatened by the Hayes Fire. There was little smoke observed from the Cox Valley Fire on Sunday, and the Ignar Creek Fire is still approximately half an acre. Neither of these fires grew Sunday.

Park officials emphasize the firefighting goals: keep people safe, protect park infrastructure, and allow fires to play a natural ecological role on the landscape.

DRONE ACTIVITY

Drone activity has hampered airborne firefighting efforts in the Cox Valley Fire of Olympic National Park. Late Thursday, Aug. 18, fire managers began using water drops to limit the spread of the Cox Valley Fire, one of several lightning-caused fires from July 21. Two loads of water were dropped before managers received a report of a drone flying in the area. Aviation safety requires that wildland fire air operations shut down immediately if drones are observed, according to ONP.

Drone launching is illegal within national parks, and drones are prohibited near wildfires.