Lightning Strikes Cause Fires in Olympic National Park Backcountry

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Date: July 30, 2009
Contact: Cat Hawkins Hoffman, 360-565-3060

Recent hot and dry weather combined with lightning ignitions has caused unusually active fire behavior for the Olympic Peninsula. Yesterday, lighting strikes from an afternoon thunderstorm started several new fires in the interior of Olympic National Park. Park fire personnel are managing these as the “Heatwave Complex” of fires, which includes two other fires started by lightning in late June and mid-July.

A previous lightning event started the Constance fire in the Dosewallips drainage on July 11. Approximately 180 acres in size, the Constance fire continues to burn in very steep terrain northeast of the Dosewallips Ranger Station. Due to rock-fall from the steep slopes, park managers closed the Dosewallips trail between the park boundary and the Dosewallips Ranger Station on Wednesday afternoon. Smoke from the Constance Fire reached the town of Brinnon as a result of down-valley winds created by Wednesday’s thunderstorm, and may be visible from the Kitsap Peninsula. Objectives are to contain the fire within park boundaries, potentially through the use of a helicopter to drop water on the fire’s east flank, as the terrain is too steep for safe access by fire fighters.

The Ten-Mile fire (approximately 6 acres) began as a result of a lightning strike around June 23 in the Duckabush drainage. Located about 2 miles inside the park boundary near the Duckabush trail, the Ten-Mile fire is currently being managed to allow fire to play its natural role in the forest ecosystem. The Duckabush Trail remains open, with a short detour around the fire’s edge.

Fire personnel confirmed three new fire starts in the Seven Lakes Basin, and three fires in the Mt. Wilder area as a result of Wednesday’s lighting storm. Natural-start fires such as these and the Constance and Ten-Mile fires help to maintain natural diversity and structure of park forests and meadows, with direct benefits to wildlife such as woodpeckers and elk, and vegetation such as Douglas fir. Managing these fires for resource benefits meets guidelines outlined in the Olympic National Park Fire Management Plan, approved in December 2005 after extensive public review and comment. “These fires are a natural part of the Olympic ecosystem,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin. “Our goal is to manage them in a way that is both safe and ecologically beneficial.”

To provide additional information on the Constance fire for local communities, a public meeting is planned for Friday evening at the Brinnon Community Center from 6:00 to 7:30 pm.

Fire management updates can also be tracked on the web at

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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