40+ fires at Rainier, Gifford Pinchot Forest sparked by lightning

Aug 28, 2023, 7:34 AM | Updated: 8:42 am

(Photo from the U.S. Forest Service)

(Photo from the U.S. Forest Service)

Lightning strikes have sparked a series of new wildfires in Mount Rainier National Park and Gifford Pinchot National Forest, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Officials say most of the fires are relatively small and were started by lightning strikes Friday morning.

More wildfire news: Red Flag Warning for thunderstorms, wildfire risk in Cascades

At Gifford Pinchot forest, there have been 45 fires started by lightning strikes over the weekend as the Complex Incident Management Team works to manage the fires.

The most serious fires are the South Fork and Grassy Mountain fires burning in the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District and Snagtooth Mountain Fire near Mount St. Helens.

South Fork Fire is now 15+ acres in size, and the Grassy Mountain Fire is estimated to be at least six acres. Several other unnamed fires have also grown to 15- 20 acres in size. The Snagtooth Mountain Fire is now estimated to be over 200 acres in size.

Overnight Sunday, an infrared flight mapped the fire perimeters and hot spots across the forest, providing fire managers with valuable information.

On Mt. Rainier, the Tacoma News Tribune reports a 25-person crew is working to put out one of the fires to make sure it doesn’t threaten Longmire Lodge, a couple of miles away.

That fire is burning about 1,200 feet north of Nisqually Road, between Kautz Creek and the Twin Firs Trailhead, which is now closed.

Aircraft were deployed on Saturday, dropping water on the blaze as ground crews worked to get the fire under control.

The Mt. Rainier fire is not currently endangering any park infrastructure or people. Visitors to the park are instructed not to stop between Kautz Creek and the Twin Firs trailhead as firefighters work in the area.

Mount Rainier National Park has an active fire ban at their campgrounds due to the warm, dry conditions of the past summer.

Due to the large number of fires started and the dynamic situation, forest users are being encouraged by the U.S. Forest Service to avoid the parks and consider alternative plans until more fire containment is achieved.

Governor Jay Inslee posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, talking about the fires and how, inorder to preserve the forests from these fires steps will need to be taken to combat climate change.

“These forests have been hit by lightning for thousands of years and have been healthy,” said Gov. Inslee. “But now, the climates changing dramatically, it’s becoming, it’s becoming hotter, we’re getting more wind.”

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40+ fires at Rainier, Gifford Pinchot Forest sparked by lightning