The remains of Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge were to be examined by fire investigators. (National Park Service)

The remains of Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge were to be examined by fire investigators. (National Park Service)

Fire investigators arrive to examine remains of Hurricane Ridge lodge

No fire suppression equipment was in structure; contents had been removed

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Federal fire investigators arrived Tuesday to examine the smoldering remains of the 12,201-square-foot day lodge at Hurricane Ridge after Sunday’s blaze.

The 70-year-old lodge, which had been on the verge of rehabilitation, burned to the ground on Sunday, leaving only chimneys and smoking wreckage after a ranger found it fully engulfed in flames at 4:30 p.m. Firefighters from Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue and Port Angeles Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter to find the building had collapsed onto its foundations.

No fire suppression equipment was in the lodge, according to Lee Snook, acting public information officer for Olympic National Park. Having such equipment is based on the use of the building and it was not required, she said.

The large map, historic photos, furniture and much of the other contents of the lodge had been cleared out much earlier to allow a contractor hired to rehabilitate the lodge to work inside, Snook added.

JMG Constructors of Poulsbo personnel have been working on the building since April 3 but were not there last weekend, Snook said.

The park service’s Pacific West Regional Fire Marshal coordinated bringing in certified fire investigators, she said.

Their work will help to determine what happens next and the timelines for reopening the Ridge to visitors.

“We need to know the cause and origin of the fire before we can move on to the next step,” Snook said.

Once investigators are finished going through the debris, the park will be able to clean up the site “so it’s safe for people to go back,” Snook said. “There is a lot of hazardous material there now. We need to make sure visitors will be safe.”

The Hurricane Ridge Road had been closed since March 27 to allow for preparation for a two-year, $10.8 million renovation project funded through the Great American Outdoors Act. The park had aimed to reopen it before Memorial Day, but that date is now uncertain.

“It’s hard to say at this point” when it will reopen,” Snook said. “We don’t have a timeline … It’s sort of like dominoes — we have to wait for the next one to get pushed.”

The park will erect a toilet facility — not portable toilets — and a small trailer for staff to work in and take breaks.

The wreckage was still smoldering on Tuesday, but fire crews had left by 7:30 p.m. Sunday and have not returned. Park officials had no concerns that the fire would spread.

“The whole building has been surrounded by snow for months,” Snook said, adding that snow remains on the ground.

The building was built in the 1952 and housed interpretive exhibits upstairs and a gift shop and small café run by Aramark, a park concessioner. In the wintertime, the concessioner rented out snowshoes and skis.

The lodge was to have its roof replaced and receive upgrades to its plumbing, wiring and HVAC systems.

Visitation to Hurricane Ridge was 332,820 for fiscal year 2022, which ran from October 2021 to September 2022, according to the park.

According to a National Park Service report, “Visitor Spending Effects – Economic Contributions of National Park Visitor Spending – Social Science,” in 2021, 2.7 million park visitors spent an estimated $250 million in local gateway regions while visiting all areas in Olympic National Park.

The report said these expenditures supported a total of 2,710 jobs, $129 million in labor income, $229 million in value added, and $352 million in economic output in local gateway economies surrounding Olympic National Park.

“The park team and I are saddened by the loss of the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge, an iconic structure in the park and one of its most popular sites,” said Superintendent Sula Jacobs in a press release.

“We are extremely grateful for the response of park partners in Clallam County Fire and Port Angeles Fire Department who responded to the incident. We are also grateful for the outpouring of support from the community as we move forward.”

This story originally appeared in the Peninsula Daily News, a sibling publication to The Herald.

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