Extremely Dry Conditions And Fires Force Forest Closures
Undated (AP) _ Millions of acres of tinder-dry forest in western Oregon were closed to the public today because of wind-whipped fires and the threat of more blazes, shutting down logging and halting deer and elk hunters.
″We have wildfires just waiting to happen out there,″ said Doug Decker, a spokesman for the Oregon Forestry Department.
Dry forests also burned in Washington state and Wyoming.
In Oregon’s Polk County, 24 families were evacuated when a wind-whipped fire that began early Monday spread to 3,000 acres by early today. Three smaller fires were successsfully contained Monday.
Today’s Oregon forest closure, announced Monday by deputy state forester Thomas W. Lane, affects 10.3 million acres of state, federal and private land west of the Cascade Range, roughly the western quarter of the state.
Entry into the forests is allowed only by permits issued by local forest officers and permits will not be issued for any recreational purpose, officials said.
″We realize fully that we’re in the middle of the hunting season, but we feel this is a very appropriate measure to take based on the fire season we’ve had so far,″ Decker said.
″This is certainly the worst fire season we’ve seen since the Tillamook Burn in 1933. At that time we lost 260,000 acres of forest land,″ Decker said.
Logging operations were shut down Monday in Clackamas, Marion and Linn counties, and Decker said forest operations have been curtailed throughout the western half of the state.
Oregon’s largest blaze, the 7-week-old Silver Fire 25 miles west of Grants Pass in the Siskiyou National Forest, continued to spread out of control. Aerial infrared photographs taken at midnight Sunday put the fire at 91,934 acres, an increase of 1,494 acres in 24 hours.
Decker said strong northeasterly winds were carrying embers and ashes up to a mile ahead of a fire near the community of Black Rock, causing spot fires in the Black Rock State Forest, and the blaze had jumped a reservoir serving the town of Dallas.
In Washington, warm, easterly winds helped spread a forest fire to 400 acres about 15 miles north of Vancouver, said Dan Pugmire of the state Department of Natural Resources. Washington crews also worked on two smaller fires.
Scott Paper Co. forest land in Washington’s King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties has been closed to recreation and logging due to high fire danger. And open campfires were banned in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmi e National Forest.
Near Jackson, Wyo., fire crews today battled a 100-acre fire in the Bridger-Teton National Forest that appeared to have been set by man, said spokesman Mark Van Every. Firefighters were trying to keep it from moving into an area containing summer homes, he said.
Elsewhere in Wyoming, a 950-acre fire started by lightning in Yellowstone National Park almost three months ago continued to smolder today. There has been no effort to fight it since it started naturally and threatens no structures, said spokeswoman Anita Varley.