Steigerwald wildlife refuge closed to public

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge is closed to the public as crews continue to clean up after a Friday night blaze.

The Department of Natural Resources still has crews from Larch Corrections Center at the scene, but the fire is extinguished and no longer smoldering, said refuge manager Jim Clapp.

The fast-spreading fire devoured 140 acres of grass, blackberry vines and cottonwood trees and destroyed the boardwalk at the trail entrance.

The entire 1,049-acre refuge will remain closed to the public until repairs can be made. Signs are posted at all entrances, and the gates are closed, Clapp said.

Clapp hopes to have a plan of action in place by late next week, but the refuge may remain closed longer.

The fire, which was south of state Highway 14, was reported just before 5 p.m. Friday and quickly spread due to strong easterly winds and dry conditions. The fire was difficult to fight due to poor access and the swampy nature of the surrounding area.

Firefighters finally brought the blaze under control about midnight Friday.