Wildfire could impact eclipse plans in Mount Jefferson Wilderness

UPDATE (2 p.m., July 26)

A small wildfire burning east of Detroit will keep four trails closed for the foreseeable future in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, a popular spot for hikers and a focal point for the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

The Whitewater Fire was reported Sunday and has grown to 80 acres, officials said. The cause of the fire is a month-old lightning strike, officials said.

Incident teams are attacking the fire with two crews on the ground and two helicopters dropping water. 

Related: Flip-flop wearing hikers, wildfire danger could cause chaos during solar eclipse

"Right now it's not growing very fast mostly because there hasn't been much wind and it hasn't been too hot," incident spokesman Marcus Kauffman said. "But with dry fuels up there, there certainly is the potential for it to grow."

The fire closed four trails and Whitewater Trailhead, a popular access point in a wilderness expecting thousands of visitors for the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. 

Video: The fire is located west of popular backpacking destination Jefferson Park and near the Whitewater Trailhead. Amy Read / Statesman Journal

"Right now it's not growing very fast mostly because there hasn't been much wind and it hasn't been too hot," incident spokesman Marcus Kauffman said. "But with dry fuels up there, there certainly is the potential for it to grow."

The fire closed four trails and Whitewater Trailhead, a popular access point in a wilderness expecting thousands of visitors for the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

Eclipse could bring chaos to Oregon’s forests and mountains

It's not clear when the trails or trailhead will reopen, Kauffman said. Even after the fire is contained, the trails won't immediately reopen due to the unsafe nature of snags falling in a burned-over forest, Kauffman said.

The trails closed include Whitewater Trail 3429, Triangulation Trail 3373, Cheat Creek Trail 3441 and Crag Trail.

The closures block the quickest and easiest route to Jefferson Park, a popular alpine meadow at the base of Oregon's second-tallest mountain. However, hikers can still visit Jefferson Park via longer South Breitenbush Trail 3375 or Woodpecker Trail 3442. The Pacific Crest Trail also remains open.

The fire teams are looking to suppress the fire while having a minimal impact on the area's old-growth and wilderness characteristics, Kauffman said. 

"We're looking to be light on the land while suppressing the fire," he said. 

Trail closures:

Whitewater Trail #3429 is closed from its origin at Whitewater Trailhead to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail #2000.

Cheat Creek Trail #3441 is closed from its origin at Cheat Creek Trailhead to the junction with the Triangulation Trail #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 at Breitenbush Trailhead to the terminus at the Traingulation Trail #3373.

Tap here to see the map on your mobile device.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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