Maple fire grows to 995 acres in Olympic National Forest

The Maple Fire spreads through a popular recreation area in the Olympic Mountains, (Photo credit: Olympic National Forest)

HAMMA HAMMA, Wash. - The largest wildfire in Western Washington, the Maple fire, scorched nearly 1,000 acres by Friday afternoon. The fire is just 12 percent contained despite the efforts of nearly 260 firefighters and four helicopters.

Flames 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.

The fire crested Jefferson Ridge to the east and is expected to burn up the Hamma Hamma drainage toward the west. So far, the fire stayed away from campgrounds and trails closed on Thursday. One hiker was evacuated and Forest Service officials said several back-country hikers left their cars in the closed area -- but they don't think those hikers are in danger at this time.

The Hamma Hamma Road also was 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 995 acres by Friday afternoon, sending thick smoke into the surrounding area and over nearby Hood Canal in north Mason County.

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.

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