Smoke grounds firefighting helicopters as fire near Crystal Mountain doubles in size

Helicopters unable to drop water near Crystal Mountain Ski Resort as fire grows. (KOMO News)

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. -- More firefighters have been brought in to help protect the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort as the Norse Peak Fire near Mount Rainier continues to grow. But there's still so much smoke that helicopters can't make water drops.

A huge system of sprinklers has been set up to keep the ground and buildings saturated should fire come this way. The fire has grown to more than 43,000 acres to the east of Crystal burning mostly in wilderness land. It is now getting close to the homes, cabins and resort buildings. The recreation spot has been closed since Monday.

"Obviously it's concerning," said Jesse Cartwright of Crystal Mountain Fire Department. "But we also want to make sure that if we have guests here that they're safe and without visibly being able to see what's going on it's not safe right now."

The smoky condition has been good in helping to keep the fire activity down, but it's also kept the firefighting helicopters grounded.

"What I'd really like to see is some fire retardant or some water be dropped on that and we can just be done with it," Crystal Mountain Resort owner Kim Kircher said.

Fire crews were keeping a wary eye on a flare-up on the ridge. It is the same area that roared to life Monday night catching everyone by surprise and forcing an immediate evacuation.

"I literally was just saying to somebody 'I don't think we need to worry' and then 'bam' we all walk outside and the whole hillside is on fire," Kircher said.

Her husband, John Kircher, said the flames are impressive.

"Pretty much any ridge that you can see that half mile to a mile long ridge top was in flames with probably 300 foot plumes," John Kircher said.

Late Wednesday afternoon wildfire trucks from Clark County were brought in to help the Crystal Mountain crews who were already getting help from Greenwater, Buckley, Enumclaw and Carbonado.

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