The Hotshot fire north of Oso has burned about 130 acres since Thursday, and a new fire that started outside Gold Bar on Friday has covered more than 75 acres.
Western Washington’s fire season got off to an early start, as two blazes burned in logging areas Friday, growing to cover more than 200 acres combined by night.
No homes or businesses were threatened by the Hotshot fire, which began burning Thursday night on state trust land about 5 miles from Oso, Snohomish County, on the north side of Highway 530, said Chuck Turley, a public information officer for the state Department of Natural Resources. He said firefighters were trying to protect some expensive logging equipment at the site.
Also in Snohomish County, a fire covered more than 75 acres outside Gold Bar near Forest Service Road 62 as of Friday evening, said Heather Chadwick, a spokeswoman for the Monroe Fire Department, one of the responding agencies. Crews first alerted about a dozen nearby residents with a Level One evacuation notice, urging them to be watchful for fire approaching their homes.
Then, shortly before 11 p.m., authorities changed that notice to a Level Two, which means residents should be ready to evacuate soon. The notice includes those south of Highway 2 between 437th Drive Southeast and Forest Service Road 62, Snohomish County Fire District 7 said. A Level Three evacuation notice means leave as soon as possible.
Unpredictable wind and the fire’s steep and rugged location was making it tough for crews to fight, Chadwick said.
Turley said Friday morning that the Hotshot fire would be a challenging fire to put out, too, not only because it was in a logging area, but because it was also on steep terrain and temperatures were expected to soar Friday. By Friday afternoon, the fire had grown to 130 acres. It remained that size throughout the evening, and as of 9:30 p.m., crews had 10 percent of the blaze contained.
“It’s not going to be easy getting this one cleaned up,” he said of the logging area.
“It’s like a large field of pickup sticks. If they’ve limbed and cut and decked (stacked) the trees, you’ve got big piles of logs,” Turley said. “You have to physically tear those decks (stacks) apart to get into the interior and make sure the fire is out. It gets a lot more labor-intensive.”
Because the fire was burning on high-angle slopes, firefighters were concerned about “rolling hazards,” when logs roll downhill and catch below, Turley said.
About 12 DNR firefighters responded to the fire overnight Thursday, Turley said, along with local firefighters. He said they weren’t able to do much with the fire because of the steep ground. He said Friday morning that the number of firefighters “will be growing pretty steady, starting now.”
Typically, the fire season doesn’t begin in earnest until July in the Northwest, but record-high April and early May temperatures might be pushing the season’s pace.
“We’ve now had two weeks of high 60s, low 80-degree temperatures. These fuels can dry out in a hurry,” Turley said. “Given the last two or three years, I’m not sure we have a traditional fire season.”
Turley said the cause of the fire was under investigation.