Our little fire was started when lightning struck a tree next to the Pacific Crest Trail on July 25. Wilderness ranger Geoff was nearby and called it in. The district managers made the decision to manage this fire for “resource benefits”, meaning that the fire is in the wilderness where natural processes are supposed to dominate. A fire of this type requires committing time and people for the duration, which may be over two months.
The fire stayed small, taking three weeks to grow from a quarter acre to a half acre. It crept through the thick layer of forest litter under large western hemlocks and small Pacific silver firs. John and his crew of wilderness rangers took turn visiting the fire, recording weather and fire behavior observations. Near the crest, the relative humidity rarely dropped below 50%.
This past Monday, the wind blew. Thorp Mountain lookout called in a plume of smoke. An aircraft was dispatched, and found our little fire was growing. I hiked in the next day, and spoke to some backpackers who had been watching it. I discovered that the fire had torched up over the top of the rock knob we used as a lookout perch, and was now burning toward the south and west where it would get more sun. I estimated about 4 acres. Yesterday Geoff and I went back. We couldn’t believe that the humidity was now in the teens, alerting us to the fact that more active fire behavior was now possible. Before we left, we heard the jet engine roar of fire rushing up through the crowns of large hemlocks. Snags were burning near the trail. I think the fire will cross it today, since near record temperatures are being forecast. We got home at dark, reeking of smoke.
Geoff and Robin went in to observe this morning. I am on my way to the office to do some mapping and attend a planning meeting. Our little fire is awake. Stay tuned.