Fire burns into Crater Lake: Growing Middle Fork fire spreads into remote portion of the park – September 20, 2008

Fire burns into Crater Lake: Growing Middle Fork fire spreads into remote portion of the park

Herald and News

Klamath Falls, Oregon
September 20, 2008

BY LEE JUILLERAT

H&N Regional Editor

 

A forest fire burning in the Sky Lakes Wilderness more than doubled in size and spread into a remote southwestern portion of Crater Lake National Park and areas of the Fremont-Winema National Forests.

 

The Middle Fork Fire, estimated at 7,700 acres

 

Wednesday, expanded to 17,800 acres Friday night, according to Forest Service officials. The lightning-caused blaze started in mid-August, but was not a major concern until earlier this week. It rapidly advanced Wednesday and Thursday. Until this week, it was centered along the Middle Fork Rogue River Trail on the western flanks of the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

 

The wilderness area straddles the Cascades on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest on the west side and Fremont-Winema on the east side.

 

Although it moved into the park, the fire has not affected park visitors and is not near any park structures. Park spokesmen said Friday the fire is in a remote southwestern corner in the Union Peak area. Because of the threat, however, the park south of Highway 62 has been closed to hikers. Park officials said visitors should expect heavy smoke and possible delays if fire crews and equipment are moving through the area.

 

The Forest Service, which has a base camp in Prospect, established a “spike” camp at the Annie Creek Sno-Park near the park’s south entrance.

 

15 percent contained

 

Fire spokeswoman Ada Tackas said the fire is about 15 percent contained. Because of its remote location, full control is not expected until October.

 

“We’ve had a very productive day,” Tackas said Friday evening. “They’re getting a lot of fire line put in. The next few days we except that we’ll be very productive.”

 

Nearly 70 0 people, including 18 20-person fire crews, are involved in firefighting efforts, along with eight helicopters, seven engines, two bulldozers and 14 water tenders.

 

Tackas said it’s hoped that cooler, moister air that moved into Southern Oregon Friday and is predicted to continue through early next week will help f ire control efforts.

 

The northern third of Sky Lakes, which extends from Highway 140 near the Lake of the Woods to Crater Lake National Park, remains closed to hikers and equestrians. No residences are threatened and three Forest Service structures within the wilderness have been protected.

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