LEADBETTER POINT — Grassy Island, an uninhabited island just east of the northern tip of Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula, is the scene of a smoky fire Friday night.
According to a fire management plan drafted by the island’s owner, the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, the refuge’s Leadbetter Unit has several hundred acres of young to mature lodgepole pine (shore pine) on the peninsula tip that continues to spread north and westward, and a small area of lodgepole pine on Grassy Island. The oldest lodgepole pine trees are approximately 80 years old, although most of the lodgepole pine on the refuge is much younger than 80 years.
Natural-caused fires are said to be infrequent in the maritime climate of lodgepole pine, but there was a significant fire on the island in July 2006 that scorched about 50 acres. The refuge notes that human-caused fires can be much more frequent in lodgepole pine due to public use occurring in and near this forest type. The 2006 fire was believed at the time to have been human caused.
Grassy Island is primarily accessible by boat from the bay; although it can be reached by foot from the peninsula by wading a shallow channel at low tide. No residences are closer than a mile from Leadbetter Point’s southern boundary.
At the time of the last fire, two helicopters were called in to drop water on the island. There was no immediate information available Friday night about whether or when fire-suppression efforts may begin this time.
Grassy Island is a sanctuary for hundreds of seabirds of many species.