Oregon wildfires: Historic lookout wrapped in foil to protect from Cedar Creek Fire

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Story updated at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6

The Cedar Creek Fire grew several hundred acres by Saturday morning, burning 1,438 acres as a closure of the Waldo Lake Wilderness outside of Oakridge continues.

Fire crews worked along Forest Road 2422 and FR 2417 Friday to gain better access the the fire area, and helicopters were used to keep the fire in check.

The historic Waldo Lookout was wrapped with a protective heat-reflecting material in case the fire threatens the lookout.

Firefighters use an aluminum-based wrap for structure protection on the Waldo Mountain Lookout east of Oakridge, Ore. Firefighters are making use of this vantage point to monitor and track the Cedar Creek Fire's movement.
Firefighters use an aluminum-based wrap for structure protection on the Waldo Mountain Lookout east of Oakridge, Ore. Firefighters are making use of this vantage point to monitor and track the Cedar Creek Fire's movement.

The fire, which the Pacific Northwest Team 2 incident management team is now in command of, is 3.5 miles west of Waldo Lake and 12 miles from Oakridge in the Cascade Mountains of the Willamette National Forest. It was sparked after thousands of lightning strikes raked Oregon during the past week.

The U.S. Forest Service has closed the entire Waldo Lake Wilderness area, in addition to all the west side trails and campgrounds. The area is being patrolled and people are being told to leave, officials said.

Waldo Lake's east side, including whether to keep the overall lake open and campgrounds such as North Waldo, Islet and Shadow Bay, remains open, officials said.

The closure of the east side "depends on the fire behavior and direction," fire spokesperson Kris Erikson said.

“(We’re) closing the entire Waldo Lake Wilderness area as a precaution as the fire is headed in that direction, away from the community of Oakridge,” the U.S. Forest Service added in a news release.

Related Oregon wildfire forecaster ‘optimistic’ due to amount of rain with thunderstorms

A temporary flight restriction is in place at least until Wednesday in a 10-mile radius around the fire, keeping aircraft away from the area.

Fire crews added that the outlook isn't necessarily dire.

"There are no major east winds in the forecast for the near future, which is good news for Oakridge, and four large air tankers are currently on the fire dropping retardant," fire crews said.

Air quality in Oakridge is expected to be good Saturday, fire officials said, with the best time of day to recreate outdoors being late afternoon. But as winds shift from westerly to easterly overnight, increasing smoke from the Cedar Creek fire may drain the smoke down Salt Creek into Oakridge.

Forest Service closes PCT, Diamond Peak, Summit Lake, Thielsen areas

Story updated at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 5

The U.S. Forest Service has installed a large closure around popular recreation areas near Willamette Pass due to the Windigo and Potter wildfires.

The closure includes a significant portion of the Diamond Peak Wilderness and Summit Lake while skirting the northwest side of Crescent Lake, the northern portion of the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness and includes numerous campgrounds and trails.

In addition, the Pacific Crest Trail is closed from State Highway 138 (PCT mile 1,848) to State Highway 58 (PCT mile 1,908).

"This large closure area is necessary to ensure that firefighters can focus on managing the fire versus having to focus on evacuating visitors should conditions of either fire change rapidly," the federal agency said. "We understand the inconvenience this creates for the recreation public. We sincerely appreciate your support while we stay focused on firefighting. We will reduce the closure area as soon as we can safely do so."

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Both the Windigo Fire (1,100 acres) and Potter Fire (125 acres) were sparked by lightning strikes that raked the Cascade Range last week, igniting numerous smaller fires.

Moderate temperatures have kept the two fires from significant growth so far but hot and dry temperatures are forecast for the coming weekend.

Crews achieved 5% containment on the Windigo Fire and made progress connecting roads around the Potter Fire.

Air resources were used heavily with two Type 1 helicopters dropping water and retardant on hot spots.

"The Windigo Fire continues to push east towards the PCT," fire officials wrote. "Today, dozers and hand crews will be working from Forest Road 60 on the northeast corner of the fire and move south around the butte to prevent eastern progression. Staff on both sides of the fire will continue to lay hose, strengthen retardant lines, and monitor the perimeter."

The Potter Fire was active Thursday with slow, backing behavior — sending debris downslope. Crews were able to lay additional water hoses and sprinklers around the perimeter. Today, all divisions will be focusing on improving lines and clearing roads. Air resources for both fires will include four Type 1 helicopters and one Type 3, with two additional Type 1s in route.

Updates on all of Oregon's wildfires and notes from fire season will be updated below

Miller Road Fire slows to 11,000 acres

There was cautious optimism on Oregon's largest fire. Light winds and moderate temperatures on Wednesday allowed Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) task forces and Oregon Department of Forestry crews to start mop up operations, a morning report said Friday.

The fire is 25 percent contained. Today's cooler weather will remain moderate, giving crews another great opportunity ahead of next week’s forecasted triple-digit heat, officials said.

“The big push is to make as much progress as we can ahead of the upcoming extreme weather,” said Scott Magers, OSFM Blue Team Incident Commander. “Our crews have worked around the clock to get us in a good position to protect lives and homes in Juniper Flat.”

McKinney, Alex, Yeti Complex Fires burning over 60,000 acres collectively

After another hot and dry evening, firefighters continue to battle the McKinney and Yeti Complex Fires along the Highway 96 corridor just south of the Oregon-California border. Crews are focusing on protecting nearby communities, such as Seiad and Happy Camp, according to a forest service report Thursday morning.

The McKinney Fire has burned 59,636 acres with 10% containment, and the Yeti Complex has burned 6,436 acres as of today with 0% containment. Widespread evacuations are in place.

Nearby, the Alex Fire reached 151 acres and is also 0% contained, although crews reported little to no growth over the last day. Personnel for all three fires currently totals over 3,000 people, according to Forest Service updates.

Smoke from the McKinney Fire is projected to move east over the course of Wednesday, impacting communities such as Yreka, Horn Brook, Weed and Black Butte. High temperatures are forecasted into the weekend as well as dry conditions and winds, with a slight chance of more thunderstorms next week, according to the Forest Service.

After the discovery of two individuals in separate residences inside the perimeter of the fire, the confirmed fatalities for the McKinney Fire reached four early Tuesday morning, according to officials.

Oregon raked by 5,800 lightning strikes

Thunderstorms have kept firefighters busy across Oregon the past week, as a total of 5,800 strikes have hit the state since July 30, according to the Northwest Coordination Center.

The strikes have ignited most of the major fires currently burning across the state.

Before this system, Oregon had a lower than normal number of lightning strikes. In June, Oregon had 13,310 strikes for the entire month, which is 86% of normal. In July, the state had 12,940 strikes, which is 59% of normal.

More:Oregon Department of Forestry withdraws wildfire risk map after public pushback

Air quality advisory lifted for Jackson and Klamath counties, improves statewide

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality lifted an air quality advisory Thursday for Jackson and Klamath counties due to improved smoke conditions and a favorable weekend weather forecast.

Fires around Oregon and Northern California may still cause localized smoke impacts, but overall, air quality is good across the state except for being at “moderate” levels in the Bend area.

Green Butte Fire starts in Deschutes National Forest

Reported late on Wednesday evening, the Green Butte Fire has burned 23 acres as of Thursday night, with 25% containment, just two miles northeast of Spring Butte. At 8 p.m. Thursday, a Type 3 Team took command of the fire and will continue work on the perimeter.

Central OR reports no new fires, Beech Creek moving slowly

The Beech Creek Fire reported little to no progression overnight, currently recorded at 248 acres at 15% containment. Fire crews will spend Thursday continuing active suppression work as well as connecting with local landowners to address concerns, according to officials.

Central Oregon Fire reported no new starts or significant changes to preexisting fires as of Thursday morning.

The Fly Creek Fire was last reported at 280 acres Tuesday night and 80% containment on a blaze that brought evacuation orders to the Metolius Arm of Lake Billy Chinook in central Oregon.

A dozer line has been constructed around 80% of the fire perimeter and air support dropped retardant late Monday. On Wednesday, a drone will be used to map hot spots of the fire as the crew focuses on extinguishing hot spots, according to Central Oregon Fire.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Oregon wildfire updates: Waldo Mountain Lookout wrapped in protective foil