Natural end sought for Crater Lake fire – September 06, 2006

Natural end sought for Crater Lake fire

Mail Tribune

September 06, 2006
By PAUL FATTIG

CRATER LAKE — Mother Nature remains squarely in charge of putting out the 2,100-acre Bybee Fire complex burning in a remote area of the Crater Lake National Park.
Since the fire was sparked by lightning on July 23 — followed by a second lightning ignition on Aug. 7 — the National Park Service has largely allowed the blaze to burn naturally.
The fire isn’t expected to be snuffed out until the arrival of the first fall rain or snowstorm. It is burning near the 5,500-feet elevation in the Bybee Creek drainage on the southwest side of the park.
“This area evolved with fire,” said Michelle Fidler, a spokeswoman for the park service. “The fire creates a mosaic on the landscape. It leaves a patchwork quilt, creating a healthier forest overall.”
The park remains open with no roads or buildings closed by the fire.
However, the Lightning Springs Trail and a 10-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail between the Dutton Creek Trail and Bald Crater Loop Trail are closed. The Lightning Springs campsites are also closed.
“Public and firefighter safety is always our top priority,” Fidler said. “Our goal is to allow fire to play its natural role in the park where it is safe to do that.”
One of the park service’s goals is to return the area to a fire-dependent ecosystem, Fidler said. The plan is to preserve the popular park’s unique natural resources created by fire without jeopardizing any of its other resources, she added.
“We had a plan in place well before the lightning struck to do this,” she said. “When a fire like this meets our objective, we will manage it for resource benefit.”
Although fire crews are allowing the fire to spread naturally, it is being closely monitored, she said. There are about 125 people assigned to the fire, including three crews of firefighters.
“Crews continue to patrol the fire,” she said. “We’ve already put a (fire) line on the south and the west sides of the fire. We’re keeping it in check in those areas. But it is being allowed its natural progress eastward.”
By Tuesday morning, the northern section of the fire had moved into an area burned by the 1994 Bybee fire, officials said. Although wind gusts sometimes causes the fire to torch trees, the fire is mainly burning woody material on the forest floor, they said.
The smoke caused by the wildfire is also a natural part of the ecosystem this time of year, Fidler said.
“The smoke will vary from day to day but visitors should expect some smoke,” she said, noting the smoke is being monitored daily.
Visitors to the park are encouraged to stop at the Watchman Overlook on the West Rim Drive to safely observe the Bybee fire complex and learn about fire ecology. National Park Service personnel will be on hand at the overlook from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily to answer questions.
For additional information, check out www.nps.gov/fire.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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