Priorities shift to rehab on Dollar Lake fire

September 21, 2011

As quickly as resources were mobilized and on Dollar Lake firelines, they are now being dispatched, either back to their home districts or to other fires.

With weekend rain and cool weather effectively halting the spread of the 6,300-plus acre fire, what crews remain will now focus on tasks like mopping up hotspots, pulling gear and patrolling lines.

The primary focus will quickly shift from firefighting to the formidable task of rehabilitation.

The fire itself, as well as fire suppression activities will create a variety of issues for managers of the forest, both short and long-term. Much like the Gnarl Ridge Fire of 2008, erosion prevention and removal of hazard trees will be among top priorities of initial rehabilitation efforts.

When appropriate (depending on fire activity), a team will assess the extent of the damage and determine what rehabilitaiton efforts will be needed.

As of Tuesday morning, 11 crews and a total of 460 personnel remained on the incident. Command was handed over to the NW Oregon Incident Management team that morning.

"During the late afternoon yesterday, the majestic summit of Mount Hood was seen for the first time in the last three days," information officers noted Tuesday. "As the clouds parted, they left between an inch of rain on the west side of the fire and a quarter inch on the east side … As the warmer, drier weather prevails for the rest of the week, smoke will reappear in the afternoons on parts of the fire that still have heat."

According to press staff, Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) visited the Dollar Lake fire with U.S. Forest Service officials and members of the incident management team. The group toured the frontlines as crews worked to fully contain the fire and begin rehabilitating the forest. Rep. Johnson said the Dollar Lake fire, combined with the Gnarl Ridge Fire, will impact Mt. Hood's north slope for years to come.

"As the fire moves into the mop-up phase residents of the Hood River Valley will be taking their own assessment of the tragedy," Rep. Johnson said. "The pristine and untouched north side of Mt Hood has been altered for generations. It's time for the Legislature and the Congress to assess how we manage our natural resources, and what the state and federal governments can do to prevent future catastrophes."

Rep. Johnson has asked the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing this week to review forest management techniques in Oregon. As part of the September 22 hearing, he has asked U.S. Forest Service officials to answer questions about fire mitigation practices and the federal regulations that govern them.

"The Dollar Lake Fire points to the much larger issue of natural resource management,"?he said. "I know that many residents throughout the state of Oregon are frustrated with our inability to manage our state forests in a sustainable, responsible fashion. This would include thinning our forests to improve the health of the ecosystems and also creating much needed jobs through the processing of the timber that could be removed."

According to officials, the fire has burned over 6,300 acres on the north side of Mount Hood, and the cost of fighting the fire and protecting other forest assets is now over $12 million.

While many closures are still in affect for the north side of Mount Hood, some restrictions have been lifted. Lost Lake is once again open for swimming and boating and the Pacific Crest Trail is open between Government Camp and Lolo Pass.

For updated fire information and a closure map, visit:

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