Online exhibits / Forks Fire of 1951
The Forks Fire started around 3:00am on September 20, 1951, in the Olympic National forest near Camp Creek, flaring up from the Sol Duc fire. The fire, fanned by high winds, traveled 18 miles in less than 8 hours. Residents of Forks awoke that morning with the rapidly moving fire on the horizon and threatening the town.
Burning a path nearly three miles wide, witnesses told of flames 500 feet in the air, with embers and ashes landing in the town of Forks. As the town became threatened, crews mobilized to cut fire breaks to stop the fire and save the town. Residents of the town were evacuated, leaving town with what prized possessions they could carry, and no guarantee that the town would survive the fire for their return.
The summer of 1951 was extremely dry, with rainfall less than 15% of normal. June, July and August of 1951 recorded a total of 1.15 inches of rainfall in Forks, compared to the normal average for the same months of 8.20 inches of rain. The extreme dry conditions brought several forest fires in the northwest, from Oregon to British Columbia.
On August 6, a fire started near Camp Creek, apparently caused by sparks from a logging train on the Port Angeles and Western Railroad. The fire burned for several days before being brought under control, covering nearly 1,600 acres. Spot fires continued to be a problem for several weeks after the fire was controlled, and firefighters regularly patrolled the fire area.
On September 20, a sudden drop in humidity and a strong easterly wind allowed a hot spot to erupt into a fire that spread rapidly, burning thousands of acres and dramatically changing the small community of Forks, Washington.
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