The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Friday it is extending the closure of all of the lands it manages east of the Cascades to recreation due to high fire danger through Thursday, Sept. 17. DNR staff will evaluate the possibility of extending the closure, originally enacted Tuesday, as the next week progresses.
Critical wildfire danger and ongoing fires in the area warranted the extension of the closure, as Labor Day saw a rash of new fires ignite all around the state, with one destroying the town of Malden, and another leading to the death of a 1-year-old.
Meanwhile, Hood River County Board of Commissioners closed all its lands to recreation, in a special meeting Friday.
The 12,000-acre Big Hollow Fire is currently burning east and north of the Trapper Creek Wilderness on the Mt. Adams Ranger District, 15 miles northwest of Carson in Skamania County, according to Gifford Pinchot National Forest officials. The fire started on Sept. 8, cause unknown, and fire officials gave an Oct. 10 estimated containment date. Fuels are timber litter and understory, grass and medium logging slash.
Recreation areas in Gifford Pinchot are closed.
Hood River County has issued a temporary full closure of county forest lands due to extreme fire danger and the shortage of firefighting resources in the region. The closure includes the county forest, forest roads and forest recreational trails to the public until further notice, according to a press release.
The order restricts all access to county forest lands effective at 1 p.m. on Sept. 11 due to continued fire risk, weather and wind events, plus a dangerous lack of resources in the event of a fire.
Multiple fires continue to burn in Oregon, some catastrophic, resulting in a current State emergency declaration. Numerous parks and recreation areas are closed in the region, including Mt. Hood National Forest, portions of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and Oregon State Parks.
“Closing recreation to the public is a difficult decision, and one we do not take lightly, but the risk to public safety and our firefighters is too great to take chances with,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the elected official who oversees DNR. “Hundreds of thousands of acres of land have burned since Monday, and our resources are fully deployed. But we cannot risk having more human-caused fires right now.
“I know how important hunting season is to so many Washingtonians, but we are in the middle of a historic wildfire event.”
The below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures for DNR’s Northeast and Southeast regions is forecast to continue, with the hot and dry weather further extending the risk of large wildfires east of the Cascades.
With no lightning this week or in the forecast for the next few days, the overwhelming majority of wildfires DNR is responding to are presumed to be human-caused. The agency has responded to more than 100 fires caused by recreation already this year.
DNR will announce the reopening of its public lands to recreation when it again becomes safe to do so.