USA – The Maple Fire — located 23 miles north of Shelton near the community of Hamma Hamma — has doubled in size since Wednesday and scorched more than 800 acres of heavy timbers.
The blaze has created a heavy column of smoke in the air that’s visible from the Hood Canal and the surrounding areas.
Call of the Wildfire: Puget Sound firefighters on the front lines of state’s biggest blazes.
Crews have worked to prevent the spread of the wildfire since it was first reported on Saturday, however the fire’s remote location and steep terrain has posed some challenges to getting responders safely into certain areas where the blaze is burning.
“It’s really hot, really dry and really rugged terrain,” said Maple Fire public information officer Norma Brock.
The source of the fire is still under investigation, but signs point to being started by humans.
In the past week, the wildfire crept up and over the Jefferson Ridge, which has resulted in closures to the Jefferson Lake trail, Elk Lake trail and the Lena Lake area. An estimated 5 percent of the blaze has been contained, Brock said.
“The concern is that if the fire progresses east, it could compromise (Forest Service Road) 25 and that’s the only way out,” Brock said. “We don’t want people to be trapped back in there.”
Forest Service roads 2401, 2421 and 2480 are already closed to the public.
Since the wildfire has quickly grown in size, additional assets and equipment have been pulled from fighting fires elsewhere in the state to help combat the Maple Fire, including resources from Forest Service, the National Park Service, county fire districts and the Washington National Guard.
Brock said there’s currently more than 160 personnel working to suppress the fire, and that number should reach 300 people by Friday.
Two Black Hawk helicopters from the Washington Army National Guard’s 96th Aviation Troop Command based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are providing assistance to ground crews fighting the fire, said spokesman Cpt. Joseph Siemandel.
National Guard crews are assisting in firefighting efforts elsewhere in the state this week, including the 450-acre Sheep Creek Fire near Northport and the 5,000-acre Angel Springs Fire near Davenport.
Black Hawks are able to drop about 660 gallons of water on the fire with each pass. Helicopter crews have dumped a deluge of more than 130,000 gallons of water on wildfires across the state this week alone.
“The Black Hawks are a little more accurate,” Siemandel said. “They can drop it right where you want.”
The National Guard has provided 175 guardsmen to assist firefighting efforts across the state since the start of wildfire season this year, Siemandel said.
“‘It’s nothing new for us,” he said. “We’ve provided assistance for five of the last seven years.”
Every spring, the National Guard trains with the state Department of Natural Resources to stay current on the required certifications to assist with firefighting efforts.
“Every spring we start building that battle rhythm early in the season,” Siemandel said. “So far that’s worked out really well.”
Siemandel said the crews will be assisting with the Maple Fire’s firefighting efforts for the foreseeable future.
“We’ll be there until we’re needed elsewhere or until we’re told we’re good,” he said. “Right now we just don’t know.”
The fire’s response team has a public meeting scheduled for Friday evening at 7 p.m. at the Hamma Hamma fire station, at 34571 N. Hwy 101 in Lilliwaup, to provide the public with more information as efforts to put out the fire continue.