Fire departments tackle nascent wildfire near Hoquiam

Multiple departments ccombined efforts to defang the fire before it could gain energy

Multiple fire departments tackled a wildfire near the intersection of U.S. Highway 101 and Ocean Beach Road Monday evening before it could spread.

Fire Districts 6, 7, 10, the Hoquiam Fire Department, and the Washington Department of Natural Resources all responded to the fire, said Hoquiam Fire Chief Matt Miller in an interview, knocking the fire down before it could spread beyond the capability of local resources.

“This was another combined effort of multiple departments. No single department in the county is capable of handling calls like this alone. We really appreciate District 10 coming from East Hoquiam and Wishkah and providing what they provided,” Miller said. “If somebody hadn’t called that in and we had gotten out there when we did, another 15-20 minutes, that would have gotten into the trees overhead. That would have been insane.”

The initial call was at 7:44 p.m. to Fire District 6, Miller said, of someone seeing a smoke plume over the hills. Hoquiam also gets the calls for fires in that area, Miller said.

“I responded because we weren’t sure where it was in relation to the city’s watershed. That’s a valuable asset for the city,” Miller said. “It ended up being on private property. It’s timberland, forest lands. The private property owner was on scene.”

Fire District 6 assets were on scene just ahead of HFD, Miller said. Responding firefighters initially requested assistance from the Hoquiam Police Department to locate the fire before they were able to find it without help.

“There’s been a few small fires in the same general area,” Miller said. “As my officer on the engine started heading out there and saw the smoke plume, he requested the city’s police bring the drone out there. Those drones are genius.”

Fire District 6 personnel had opened a gate and moved into the forest, Miller said. The fire was located about a mile to a mile and a half up a gravel road from Ocean Beach Road. The first firefighters on scene found a conflagration; an area about 50-by-100 feet with flames shooting dozens of feet into the air, Miller said.

“My engine company took command of the fire,” Miller said. “My officer on the engine requested additional resources while District 6 used their water tender to apply water to the fire.”

As both vehicles on scene shot their tanks dry suppressing the fire with thousands of gallons of water, additional assistance was requested Miller said; Districts 7 and 10 and DNR responded.

“We were able to keep it to where it was with the Fire District 6 tender applying water,” Miller said. “While they went to go refill their water tanks it began to flare back up.”

As reinforcements arrived, firefighters were able to get multiple hoses on the fire, battering down the blaze, knocking it down by around midnight, Miller said, while DNR carried out mop-up operations Tuesday morning.

“The landowner was able to bring some heavy equipment and shovel up some of the wood debris,” Miller said. “That was going to take a while and it was getting dark. We limited the on-scene crews. DNR responded back out this morning.”

A total of 22 firefighters with 11 vehicles from all involved departments responded to the fire, Miller said. The cause of the fire is being investigated, Miller said.

Multiple departments responded to a burgeoning wildfire on Monday night near the intersection of 101 and Ocean Beach Road. (Courtesy photo / Hoquiam Fire Department)

Multiple departments responded to a burgeoning wildfire on Monday night near the intersection of 101 and Ocean Beach Road. (Courtesy photo / Hoquiam Fire Department)

Dry and dangerous

The region is under a heat warning issued by the National Weather Service, and a county-wide burn ban is in place as temperatures on the coast are expected to hit the low 90s. The conditions are extremely risky for fires right now, Miller said. Crews from across the state just finished servicing another wildfire near Moclips, handing control back over to the Quinault Fire Department Friday.

“Everything is super dry. Humidity is dropping. Temperature is increasing. Winds are blowing,” Miller said. “It’s the prime mix to either start a fire or have a fire expand out of control.”

Despite that, Miller said, some county residents have disregarded warnings.

“Across the county for the last two days, there’s been approximately 10 illegal burns, people having campfires or recreational fires in their backyards or on the beach,” Miller said. “It’s not the time or the weather conditions for that right now.”

This time of year is known for dry weather creating dangerous weather conditions, Miller said, though this year’s dry spell hit slightly earlier than it’s usual to see.

“Because of our location next to the water, it takes us a couple more months to start to dry out,” Miller said. “This might be a little drier than normal. We might be a little earlier than usual.”

The hot weather is expected to break, Miller said, but not yet. The NWS forecast has temperatures coming down by the end of the week.

“We got a couple days to go with hot dry weather,” Miller said. “It’s not good conditions to have a fire right now.”

Miller praised the interdepartmental cooperation for helping to smash down the fire before it could blossom into a major wildfire.

“It’s another good example of what we can do when we work together,” Miller said.