Fire managers to close Jefferson Park and portion of Pacific Crest Trail Monday morning

The Whitewater Fire was detected Sunday, July 23, burning in the Whitewater Creek drainage of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. Firefighters suspect a lightning bolt a month ago smoldered in obscurity before the right combination of wind and heat fanned the flames into a forest fire. (USDA Forest Service photo)

DETROIT, Ore. -- The 167-acre Whitewater Fire has been actively burning a few miles from Jefferson Park in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, since Sunday, July 23.

Fire managers will be closing all trails into Jefferson Park beginning Monday, July 31, at 6 a.m.

“We understand it is inconvenient, but our priority is to protect public safety,” said Detroit District Ranger Grady McMahan.

An 11-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail (Trail #2000) will be closed. The PCT will be closed north of its junction with the Woodpecker Trail and south of Breitenbush Lake.

Officials say the weather forecast calls for unusually hot, dry and unstable weather conditions in the area this coming week. The hotter weather is expected to increase fire behavior, which would pose a safety risk to hikers in the Jefferson Park area.

“The purpose of this closure is to protect the welfare of firefighters and the public,” said McMahan. “It was a difficult decision, but one we felt compelled to make given the weather forecast for the coming week.”

Since Saturday, heavy equipment crews have been removing brush and small trees along the Forest Service Road 2243-400 system (Whitewater Creek Road). Brush, limbs and trees are being cut, chipped, and stacked in order to create control lines by reducing fuels along the road system outside the wilderness. Fire managers aim to ensure protection of Forest Service land and private land holdings, officials said.

The Type 3 team will hand off management of the fire to a Type 2 Incident Management Team on July 31st. A new fire camp has been established at the Hoodoo Ski Area. Motorists are advised to reduce speeds and use caution when traveling on Highway 22 due to the high volume of fire traffic.

Resources on the Whitewater Fire include:

  • Three twenty-person Type 2 Initial Attack hand crews
  • Two heavy and one medium helicopters
  • Five masticators
  • Three water tenders
  • About 125 people are engaged in the firefighting effort.

The previous trail closures remain in place. The closed trails are:

  • Whitewater Trail #3429 is closed from its origin to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail #2000.
  • Cheat Creek Trail #3441 is closed from its origin to the junction with the Triangulation Tr. #3373.
  • Triangulation Trail #3373 is closed from its junction with trail #3374 (near Triangulation Peak) to the terminus at Whitewater Trail #3429.
  • Crag Trail #3364 from its origin to the terminus at the Triangulation Trail #3373.

The following trail closures will be in place starting Monday, July 31, at 6 a.m.:

  • Pacific Crest Trail (#2000) north of Woodpecker Trail (#3442) to Breitenbush Lake
  • South Breitenbush Trail (#3375) east of Bear Point Trail (#3342) up to the PCT (#2000)

Additionally, Forest Service Road 2243 (off Highway 22) is closed at the Cheat Creek Trailhead to avoid potential conflicts with fire traffic. The trails and road will remain closed to protect public and firefighter safety until further notice.

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