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Fire causes second Highway 35 shutdown

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

August 23, 2006

The Mount Hood Fire Complex continued to grow during the weekend partly due to a planned burnout of fuel and partly to the burn going past a line cut around the fire.

Because of the need to shift resources and move firefighters into place, the incident command team overseeing the fire decided to close Highway 35 for 24 to 48 hours; the closure began at noon Tuesday. The closure is from Cooper Spur Road at Milepost 74 to White River Sno-Park at Milepost 62.

During times when the highway is open there are restrictions in place that will continue until further notice. Highway 35 will be closed each day from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. pilot cars and follow vehicles will control both directions of traffic. From 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. the highway will be open but no vehicles will be allowed to stop or park at any trailheads between Cooper Spur Road and the junction of Forest Road 48.

The crews were going into place to work on burning-out operations close to the highway. The closure was also being done to help with low-level air support by helicopters flying in loads of retardant and water.

A slopover, the term used for fire that burns past a fire line, occurred on the south end of the Bluegrass Fire Saturday afternoon. The small starts spread quickly in two places over rocky slopes and added 20 to 30 acres to the fire area.

Crews contained it indirectly with bulldozer and hand lines by improving existing roads and trails. They were working in the vicinity of Elk Mountain southeast toward Robinhood Creek. The burnout is expected to help the southern fire line hold.

Fire officials expect the fire to continue to spread south and west on the south perimeter until burnout takes place to the containment line. New fire starts and undetected spots could possibly increase the fire’s size outside containment lines.

For the first time since the lightning-caused blazes began Aug. 7, fire officials have posted a date for containment of Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. As of Tuesday morning, the Bluegrass Fire had grown to 1,480 acres and is currently the only active fire in the Mount Hood Complex.

Crews have contained the Gumjuwac Fire and 12 smaller spot fires in the Badger Creek Wilderness, which totaled 50 acres. Crews are still patrolling the fires but the burns are mopped up.

The number of personnel on the fire has increased from 643 during the weekend to 708 people on Tuesday.

Firefighters have established a separate, smaller “spike camp” away from the Incident Command site at Mt. Hood Meadows. A pack string is being used to haul equipment and supplies into the spike camp.

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