A grass fire allegedly caused by a homemade firecracker started on Goose Island at 6 p.m. Friday, June 26 and is still smoldering. Goose Island is located off of Cape San Juan, between San Juan Island and Lopez Island.
“As far as we can tell it was a fireworks-caused fire, based on witness reports,” Fire Chief Steve Marler said. “The last time I checked eagles don’t smoke, and we didn’t have any lightning, and there’s nothing else there.”
According to a press release sent out from San Juan Island Fire & Rescue, neighbors on Cape San Juan heard a booming noise and saw smoke coming from Goose Island, and residents on Lopez Island saw flames. The Fire Boat Sentinel was dispatched, and two residents from Cape San Juan went in private boats to try to assist with fire extinguishers. At 8:15 p.m. the crew decided to let the fire burn itself out.
Monday the fire continued to burn.
Marler estimates that the fire burned less than a quarter of the island, which is a private nature preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy. Visitors are not permitted to the island, except for researchers from the University of Washington Friday Harbor laboratories.
There are no leads on who caused the fire, aside from some long-distance photographs and witnesses, who say they were in a white trophy-style boat heading north.
“Fire works aren’t allowed here, and it’s really dry already,” Marler said. “We’ve had a lot of fires already, and a lot of people come here for the fourth not realizing it’s against the rules to have them in our county.”
It is illegal to possess, sell, offer to sell, use, transfer, discharge or explode fireworks anywhere in San Juan County without a permit, according to County Code 9.20. The county may fine up to $250 per violation.
Correction: This article misstated that Goose Island is federally protected. It is federally protected, it is a private nature preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy.