Fire Cache

While the term 'cache' refers to a hidden store of valuable goods, within the Forest Service it came to mean foremost a stockpile of fire fighting equipment and supplies. The concept of a cache does not seem to appear in the Forest Service until after the devastating 1910 fire. After the fire, the magazine American Forestry published a special addition on the nature of the fire and the lessons learned from trying to fight it. Ferdinand Augustus "Gus" Silcox was the quartermaster at the heart of the fire. He wrote an article for the special addition of the magazine. He found the inadequate trail system an obstacle to getting men and supplies to the fire. He felt that "...with an adequate trail, lookout, and telephone system, and a sufficient equipment of tools, the fires can be controlled." These beliefs developed into policy as Silcox rose up the ranks to eventually become Forest Service Chief in 1933. 1

Initially, a fire cache was nothing more than a small storage shed. Tools and equipment were stocked by pack train. With the emergence of roads, specially designed fire caches began to be located at ranger stations where trucks could be quickly loaded and sent to a fire. 2     But within a forest where trails were still the dominant means of access and movement of labor, small backcountry fire cache continued to play a role in Forest Service fire suppression policy.

One aspect of this policy was having a "sufficient equipment of tools,..." ready for a crew of firefighters. One means of having equipment readily available was to 'cache' it at a prominent location within the trail system of a forest. The Hayes River Fire Cache is at the juncture of the Elwha and Dosewallips trails on the upper Elwha River.

Conservation Goals

The basis of judgment for evaluating the Hayes River Fire Cache is a Conservation policy of preserving the structure for the continued use by park maintenance staff. The underlying principal of this policy is the desire to preserve both the original design and materials of the structure in its landscape setting while addressing life safety issues within a long-term maintenance program. Such preservation measures may include limited restoration of deteriorated material and replacement in-kind of material and assemblies that have reach their service life.

Elements of Significance and Character Defining Features:

Within the goal of preserving the fire cache, the concept of significance plays a vital role in establishing maintenance policy. For historic structures, significant elements are those qualities of the building that provide historic meaning and understanding.

The National Register of Historic Places Registration Form says the Hayes River Fire Cache is significant for its association with the history of the Forest Service keeping fire suppression tools in remote areas. Its design and construction represent practical and functional use of local materials. It has retained integrity of setting, design, materials, and association with an important aspect of the Park's history.

In terms of significant character defining elements of the fire cache, these are embodied in the rustic form of the original log/beam design and construction, the use of a stone foundation, the shake siding for the upper section of the walls, and the use of wood shakes for the sheathing and roof. Replacement in kind is critical in retaining the historic qualities of the fire cache.

Hayes River Fire Cache

Hayes Fire Cache

Figure No. 1: Hayes River Fire Cache

According to the National Register, the Hayes River Fire Cache was constructed in 1928 by the Forest Service within what was then the Mount Olympus National Monument. It is still used today for the storage of equipment and tools.

The Hayes River Fire Cache is a small rectangular combination log and frame structure with a shed roof. It is only ten feet wide and 8 feet deep. The base of the building up to the rear eave line is constructed of logs with simple lap joints. The extended front and sidewalls of the shed are wood framed and covered with split cedar. The roof is cedar shake with a central insert of corrugated fiberglass creating a skylight. The building was last assessed in July 2006.

The fire cache underwent substantial stabilization work in the spring of 2000. The building was raised and the stone foundation repaired. All the sill logs were replaced. Additional selected log replacement was conducted on the front, back and south sides. The extant floor was removed and new treated floor joist and treated tongue-&-groove flooring installed. The wall shakes on the south elevation were totally replaced. When assessed in 2006, the structure was found to be in very good condition with the exception of minor surface deterioration (1/2" depth) on some of the log corners.


With a structure in this good of condition, the primary recommendation is to continue a periodic monitoring, clean the duff and debris off the roof and insure there is good drainage around the building.

1   Lewis, James G., The Forest Service and The Greatest Good: A Centennial History, Forest History Society, 2005, p. 76-78.
2   A good example of an early vehicle designed fire cache is the historic structure at the Elwha Ranger Station.

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