Hiking trails closed down by wildfire
September 11, 2008
BY BILL KETTLER
A wildland fire in the Sky Lakes Wilderness grew to about 1,800 acres Wednesday, and fire managers have closed more trails in the area around the fire.
Six 20-person crews and two helicopters are working the Middle Fork fire, which was sparked by lightning Aug. 16 and burns in the steep canyons of one of the Rogue River’s main tributaries. In addition to the Middle Fork Trail (No. 978), which was closed earlier, fire managers have now closed the Mudjekeewis Trail (No. 1085), Geyser Spring Trail (No. 1087), Halifax Trail (No. 1088), Alta Lake Trail (No. 979), Tom and Jerry (No. 1084) and McKie Camp (No. 1089).
Forest Road 3795 and Road 300, a spur, are closed to civilian traffic while firefighters work, said Patty Burel, a spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
Burel said fire managers have chosen a “contain and control” strategy for managing the fire rather than a direct suppression effort because the fire is burning in difficult terrain far away from any structures or property. Some of the terrain includes slopes as steep as 70 percent, which is extremely difficult to work on when covered with loose rocks, trees and woody debris.
Burel said hikers in the popular Seven Lakes Basin, five miles south of the fire area, should expect to encounter helicopter traffic. Helicopters are collecting water from Grass Lake and Lake Ivern to drop on hot spots.
The fire started on the south side of the Middle Fork canyon, but jumped the stream Friday when east winds and hot temperatures helped the fire expand. Warm days this week could help the fire continue to grow, and winds from the east could push smoke toward Medford and other communities in the Bear Creek Valley. Forecasters were expecting high temperatures in the mid-70s around the burn area (elevation 5,500 feet) this week, and overnight lows in the 50s.
Burel said the fire is burning in a mosaic, leaving many old-growth trees untouched while it creeps along the ground, killing small trees and consuming brush. Fire managers expect the fire to burn until it is extinguished by fall rains, which often don’t arrive until October.
The fire has burned in an area of about 3 square miles in the 113,000-acre wilderness, which straddles the Cascade crest south of Crater Lake National Park. Shorter days and cooler nights help limit the fire’s ability to grow, but warm days that encourage more intense burning typically persist until late September or early October.
Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail email@example.com.