Fire on Goose Island continues to burn

Smoke rises from Goose Island. The fire has been feeding on guano and dry grass

The fire on Goose Island that began Friday, June 26, is still smoldering after a second attempt to put it out. San Juan Fire and Rescue spent approximately 6 hours Monday and around 100,000 gallons of seawater on the fire, according to Steve Marler, fire chief.

The fire was allegedly started by a homemade firecracker after being launched off a boat that was close to Goose Island. Initial attempts to put it out resulted in Fire and Rescue deciding to let it burn itself out. On Monday the fire flared up again.

Marler said Goose Island, which is owned by the Nature Conservancy, is not within fire district boundaries and help from the Nature Conservancy “is not going to happen.”

The Department of Natural Resources does not cover Goose Island for fire protection and much of their resources are focused on wildfires in eastern Washington.

“Its just one of those things we’re trying to do the right thing and figuring out who is supposed to be responsible, and that has not been easy,” Marler said. He estimates about half of the island has burned at this point, fueled by guano. His team has been working around nests and birds on the ground, as well as protective parents swooping overhead.

“Our goal was two-fold,” he said. “To protect the rest of the nests and to protect residents from the smoke that’s been blowing over the island, particularly people with health issues.”

Marler says he has gotten in touch with Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, in order to figure out funding for the Fire and Rescue to keep the fire down if it were to reignite.

“The fire is mostly extinguished,” Marler said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it flared up again.”

Visitors are not allowed at Goose Island aside from researches from University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs. Goose Island is home to a number of seabirds including nesting cormorants, glaucous-winged gulls and oystercatchers.

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