Kitsap firefighters battling underground forest fire

NEAR PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- Firefighters on the Kitsap Peninsula are battling a stubborn forest fire that is burning underground.

"The burning conditions are a little bit different then Eastern Washington," said Lt. Mike Mock with North Kitsap Fire.

In Eastern Washington, you can see the fires from miles away. Here you have to be escorted in.

"Usually a lot slower and just creeps around in this stuff," Mock said.

The fire is spreading underground, passing through the old growth buried logs, burning up through the roots and inside the trees.

"So it's a dangerous kind of fire," said homeowner Tom Bell. "You don't run to get out of the way, a lot of times you don't even know it's there."

Some 40 firefighters from all over the region are tackling this underground menace by hand and hose. They say it's a sneaky fire because you're literally standing on the fire without knowing it.

Residents around here first started smelling the smoke on Sunday, but as soon as firefighters got in, they said this fire could have started as much as a month ago.

Right now it's being held to about 2 acres in hard-to-reach terrain east of Port Orchard, north of Olalla.

"The fire continues to go right along this ridge line about 200 feet up into the brush here," Mock said.

Fire crews hope to have full containment by Tuesday evening.

"It's difficult to fight because it's so remote," said Battalion Chief Jon Gudmundsen with South Kitsap Fire. "But yet the beauty of that is that there's no structures that have any threats."

But nearby homeowners are leery of it getting loose.

"Because if it does and goes up, there's nothing to stop it," said Craig Manley. "It's just going to come right up the canyon... (and) we're right here."

So far, no one has been evacuated and there's no known cause. But fire crews say this is a good reminder why burning is restricted right now.

Fire crews say there could be other underground fires like this burning right now, and they just haven't been discovered yet.