VIDEO: Underground peat fire closes part of Roxhill Park

(WSB photos added)

FIRST REPORT, 2:28 PM: A “brush fire” call that’s been open since late morning in the Roxhill Park area is actually an underground peat fire, according to Seattle Parks, which says it’s under control but has claimed a few trees. Parks also says part of the park will be closed TFN because of the fire. We’ll be heading over to find out more. The peat bog in the park was restored years ago but has gone dry because of a variety of problems that the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition has long been trying to get the city to address. More to come.

3:04 PM UPDATE: We are at the park now. SFD and Parks are working together to dig into the peat to try to get to a not-burned area so they can cut off the fire. They have had to tear out some trees to get to it.

(And yes, that’s a TV helicopter.) What looks like smoke in our photos, we are told, is ash. Peat fires can burn for days, weeks, even months, so SFD is hoping this hasn’t extended too far. It’s at the southeast corner of the park.

3:56 PM UPDATE: Back at HQ now, and adding more images.

Since the fire isn’t out, SFD can’t say for sure how it started, but Deputy Chief Gene Zimmerman told us firefighters have been out a few times in recent days to extinguish “small warming fires” in that area of the park. We will check back in early evening but right now, this is NOT affecting the play area on the west side of the park, except that an SFD line is running to the fire area from a hydrant on 29th SW on the southwest side of the park. (added) This view of digging to fight the fire …

…is reminiscent of a view from the Seattle Municipal Archives, dated 1961, of peat being dug up in the area during road work (we’ve published this photo before):

FRIDAY NOTE: SFD closed out the call late Thursday night. We haven’t received a response yet to our question for them, whether the fire’s considered extinguished, but we went over at 5:30 pm for a look:

All that remains is a big muddy area, with chain-link fence around it. The paths to the east and to the north (toward the bus stop) are taped off, but nothing else in the park is affected. We’ll be checking with Seattle Parks, and again with SFD, next week.

13 Replies to "VIDEO: Underground peat fire closes part of Roxhill Park"

  • AmandaK October 12, 2017 (3:18 pm)

    I hope the city will finally take the loss of water in the peat seriously after this incident. 

    • ScubaFrog October 12, 2017 (4:32 pm)

      That would explain the fires, so I agree.  

  • Mike October 12, 2017 (3:21 pm)

    We saw smoke coming from over there last Sunday, east of the playground in the trees…crazy!

  • JRR October 12, 2017 (3:22 pm)

    We’ve been working hard to get some recognition for the problems in the park, some of which would be solved if the fen were holding water instead of draining quickly toward the north. Maybe the fact that people camping in it can set it on fire will make leaders take the actions we’ve been asking for.

    • alki_2008 October 14, 2017 (11:34 pm)

      It would be great if those actions included removal of campers.  A lack of campfires would be an immense help to prevent fires in the parks.

      It’s like fireworks. Fireproof roofs would be great, but it would be better if people simply didn’t set off fireworks that could end up landing on people’s roofs.

  • Argonautter October 12, 2017 (3:23 pm)

    The helicopter is only circling south of Roxbury and I don’t see any tv logo. Do you have any more information? There are schools in that area about to be let out. Thanks.

    • WSB October 12, 2017 (3:27 pm)

      That is a different incident – Guardian 1 is also in the area. We just found a deputy at Shorewood Market who says it involves a stolen car and a search for ar least one associated suspect

  • AmandaK October 12, 2017 (3:42 pm)

    Here’s a link for the Bog info WWRHAH has gathered, and the work already done.  WWRHAH has brought this up to the Mayor, Lisa Herbold, King County, and just about everyone who will listen.  I am so sad to see this happen to a 10,000 year old fen.  This just won’t “come back”.

    • WSB October 12, 2017 (3:54 pm)

      Thanks, AmandaK. We just got back home and I’m looking up a lot of that … all the WWRHAH (and volunteers in years previous) work and advocacy was the first thing that came to mind as soon as we got first word via the Parks tweet that this was a peat fire. SFD is hoping it hasn’t spread too far underground but as they keep digging, they don’t know yet. – TR

    • Joe Szilagyi October 12, 2017 (7:25 pm)

      We put that page together back in March 2014, and the City and County did nothing. This is on them.

  • JRR October 12, 2017 (3:59 pm)

    It truly is a community gem and if this fire goes on, it will be a great loss. I’m mad at the lack of action given all the talk about caring about the environment by civic leaders. It seems they care about the environment in certain neighborhoods more than others in a way the follows socioeconomic lines pretty directly. 

  • ScubaFrog October 12, 2017 (4:29 pm)

    Peat definition and fires:  “Partially decomposed plant matter formed in wetlands harvested as fuel is called peat which is the first stage product in the formation of coal.  Fires resulting from peat are known as peat fires. What makes them different from forest fires is their low temperature, spread  slowly and flameless like a smoldering coal, as they are always burning. When the right situation presents itself, peat catches fire. The problem with peat fires unlike the regular forest fires is that these can go into the soil and travel underground making the fire fighters task much more laborious and difficult as they can surface anywhere. Continuous downpour of rains, wet conditions can keep them in check but they seldom get put out as they can be smoldering underground and traveling below the surface. Factors responsible are lightning, forest fires, arson, mining activities etc. Peat fires can burn as deep as 15 feet and spread very slowly, their low thermal signature and lack of right technology to detect these fires makes it lot harder to recognize them and contain them.” – Innovateus

  • Heather October 13, 2017 (11:42 am)

    I didn’t quite understand what a fire here meant so @AMANDAK thank you very much for the link. 

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