Capitol Forest blaze signals early start to fire season

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A wildfire burning through steep, rugged terrain in the Capitol Forest near Littlerock in Thurston County marks one of the earliest starts to Western Washington's fire season in years, officials say.

"It is not the best time of year for this," said Chuck Turley of the state Department of Natural Resources. "It's been a long time since we've had fire activity this early in Western Washington."

The so-called C Line fire in the Capitol Forest is one of several that have broken out in in the region over the past three days as temperatures have warmed and occasionally gusty winds moved through the region.

About 100 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is about 50 percent contained and is mostly burning through logging slash that has dried for the past five years. Helicopters also are being used to dump water on the fire from huge buckets.

Crews say the good news is that the fire is burning material that is already dead. The bad news is that it is in steep, rocky terrain and it could take up to four more days to extinguish the fire.

Another fire in Lewis County has burned about 100 acres near the eastern end of Riffe Lake in Lewis County. About 100 firefighters are at the scene of that blaze, which is burning debris in a recently logged area.

Several smaller fires also are burning in Western Washington, mostly near Tenino and La Center.

Although the fire danger remains low in the region because green trees are still moist from winter and early spring rains, DNR crews worry that the unusually early start to the fire season could signal a fierce fire season ahead when the terrain dries out under the summer sun.