Goose Island left to burn itself out

San Juan Fire and Rescue spent approximately six hours Monday June 29 and around 100,000 gallons of seawater on the fire on Goose Island, 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 June 26.

Initial attempts to put it out resulted in the decision to let it burn itself out.

Goose Island is a private nature preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy and is not within fire district boundaries.

“As far as we’re concerned that is an island that we let nature take its course on,” said Goose Island Steward Phil Green. “People don’t visit it and I go to it very rarely.”

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

The Fire and Rescue team had been working around nests and birds on the ground, as well as protective parents swooping overhead.

“Our goal was two-fold,” Marler 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.”

Thursday, July 2, a press release from the Nature Conservancy in tandem with local fire, wildlife and law enforcement stated that  “the continued application of salt water onto this protected nesting area has the potential to do more harm than good.”

Firefighting chemicals typically used on fires are harmful to the marine environment and could not be used on Goose Island.

According to the press release there are “fifty or more pelagic cormorants still on their nests, and some gulls will be successful. Other nesting birds will return to the island once the fire is gone.”

Goose Island is home to a number of seabirds including nesting cormorants, glaucous-winged gulls and oystercatchers.