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Buckley is home to Carbon Copy fire crew

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By Shawn Skager

The Courier-Herald

Fire crews from the Puget Sound area and beyond descended on Buckley Sunday and Monday to combat the growing Carbon Copy forest fire.

Raging on more than 100 acres of private land just outside the Mount Rainier National Park and six miles southeast of Carbonado, the conflagration burst to life Saturday.

According to Patty Henson, communications director for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

“It's not by lightning, so that means human cause,” she said.

Dale Warriner, the DNR incident team information officer assigned to the fire, said he expected the ranks of firefighters to grow to about 250 people by Monday evening, with 180 of those “on the firelines by this evening (Monday).”

In addition Warriner said two helicopters were working the blaze with four more on order.

Henson said front-line support on Sunday and Monday was provided by two crews of female prison inmates who are on the ground manually working on fire lines.

Also on hand were members of east Pierce County fire departments including the Buckley Fire Department and East Pierce County Fire and Rescue.

Eight members of the East Pierce Wildland Team responded to the fire Saturday afternoon with four engines and a tender truck.

Buckley residents knew things were expected to get worse Sunday night, when members of the local fire department went door-to-door in the Copperwynd neighborhood, letting residents know the field behind their homes would soon be filling with tents.

By Sunday morning the fire had grown to 50 acres and was proceeding up a very steep, fuel-laden ravine filled with heavy stands of timber.

“It's tough ground to fight a fire on,” East Pierce Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Packer said. “They're going to be there for awhile.”

Henson said the Carbon Copy fire may prove a difficult blaze to manage because of the remote, steep terrain and the nature of the timber that is burning.

“The fire is burning in standard, young timber,” she said. “Young is more likely to burn because it's smaller, easier to catch. It's closer to the ground and doesn't have as much moisture as old timber.”

Warriner agreed, saying that weather, fuel and the steep terrain could hamper efforts to fight the fire, which had not threatened any structures in it's first three days burning.

“There is lots of fuel on the ground,” he said. “And it's all hand work, no dozers at all.”

“The weather today (Monday) is supposed to be hot which doesn't help,” he said. “Tomorrow and Wednesday will cool off, which is positive.”

Warriner said although the fire was not burning in the national park, the Carbon River Road at the junction of state Route 165 had been closed around noon Monday.

With only residents allowed access, the closure shut off access to Coplay Lake, Summit Lake, Bearhead Trailhead, and the Carbon access to Mount Rainier National Park.

The National Park Service continued to issue wilderness backcountry permits at the road closure junction daily from 8 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.

The fire was named the Carbon Copy because of two small fires within the past three years that flared up at the same location, Warriner said.

Shawn Skager can be reached at sskager@courierherald.com.

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