Largest W. Wash. wildfire torches 800 acres in Olympics; hikers ordered to leave
HAMMA HAMMA, Wash. - The largest wildfire in Western Washington raced through thick timber Thursday in a popular recreation area on the east side of the Olympic Mountains, nearly doubling in size in 24 hours and prompting fire officials to close several trails and roads into the area.
Meanwhile, officials were readying a mandatory evacuation order for all hikers and campers in the area of Hamma Hamma Road leading into the Lena Lake area, about five miles west of Highway 101.
"This means 'Leave Now.' Don’t wait - pack your stuff and leave the area. If you were planning to hike or recreate in the area, you must make other arrangements," Olympic National Forest officials said in Thursday's daily update on the fire.
The Hamma Hamma Road also has been closed along with several logging roads in the area. In addition, the Olympic National Forest has closed the Jefferson Ridge Trail and Elk Lake Trail, which runs through the middle of the fire, as well as their trailheads.
Fire management authorities said the so-called Maple Fire grew from 411 acres on Wednesday to 810 acres by Thursday morning, sending thick smoke into the surrounding area and over nearby Hood Canal in north Mason County. The blaze is expected to have burned more than 1,000 acres by Friday morning. It is 5 percent contained.
About 160 firefighters and other personnel are battling the blaze, and officials are bringing in more reinforcements. By Friday, an estimated 300 people will be assigned to tackle the wildfire. Additional equipment also is being brought in to prevent the fire from spreading further east, north and south.
In addition, Air National Guard crews based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are flying Blackhawk helicopters to help hold the eastern flank of the fire.
Fire management officials say their main goal is to protect popular recreation sites and to minimize damage to state trust timber lands, which support local schools and other public services through logging sales.
Officials say the fire is human-caused. The exact circumstances are under investigation.
A public meeting about the status of firefighting efforts and the impact of the Maple Fire is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Hamma Hamma Fire Station, 34571 North U.S. Highway 101.