Blazes continue on Mount Hood


News staff writer

August 16, 2006

The upper Hood River Valley may fill with even more smoke during the next few days as firefighters burn out fuels on Mount Hood.

The fire team working on the Bluegrass Ridge and Gumjuwac Saddle fires has been cutting fire lines for days in preparation. The concept behind burning out an area is to deprive it of fuels by burning from the fire line to the blaze.

Going forward with the burnout operation depends on the weather, according to incident commander Carl West.

“We are looking forward to cooler temperatures and increased relative humidity,” West said.

As of Monday night, the Mt. Hood complex had burned 700 acres and was 15 percent contained. The number of staff on the complex has increased to 598 people including a mix of hotshot crews and regular firefighting crews. The cost of fighting the fire to date is $2.6 million. The team posts daily updates on the fire at its Web site,

The largest portion of the fire complex is burning along the Bluegrass Ridge to the west of the Sherwood and Nottingham campgrounds. Part of it is burning in the Mt. Hood National Forest and part is burning in the Mt. Hood Wilderness Area. The other portion, near Gumjuwac Saddle, is burning in the Badger Creek Wilderness.

While fire officials had initially said they would consider on Sunday night the possibility of reopening Highway 35 under pilot cars by the Oregon Department of Transportation, that decision was delayed until Tuesday evening. As of Tuesday morning, Highway 35 remains closed from Parkdale to the White River Sno-Park. All trails and campgrounds in the area remain closed.

The attack on the fire includes the use of heavy lift helicopters dropping retardant and water loads. The helicopters are picking up water from a heli-station at Little John Sno-Park as well as from Badger Lake.

While it’s been a week since the initial lightning strikes that started the blaze, sleeper fires continue to erupt. On Sunday, there were 12 new reported fires in the Badger Creek Wilderness. All 12 were contained on Monday. Crews also worked on a three acre “slopover” of fire that burned past containment lines on the Gumjuwac Fire and mopping up other fires in the Badger Creek Wilderness.

The Hood River Sheriff’s office and Emergency Medical Services have notified residents of the Cooper Spur area that a contingency plan for a pre-notification to evacuate is in place. The action will only be taken if the fire moves within two miles of the Cooper Spur area. The fire is currently three and a half miles away.

On Friday, C & H Reforestation Company from Salem cut selective trees and cleared underbrush from Tilly Jane campground and at the Cloud Cap Inn site. Both areas are in the path of the fire should it burn north toward Cooper Spur. Mt. Hood Ranger station interpreter Ron Kikel said both sites have historical significance.

“Tilly Jane guard station was built in the 1920s and the A-frame built in the 1930s by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp),” he said.

The Cloud Cap Inn was built in 1889 and is currently used as a base by the Crag Rats search and rescue team, who celebrate their 80th anniversary next week.

See Closures in Mt. Hood National Forest for complete list of closures.

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