Wednesday, September 14, 2011
U.S. Forest Service personnel turned away a steady stream of weekenders headed to the Lost Lake area over the busy holiday weekend as a thick layer of smoke settled over the entire upper Hood River Valley.
The smoke, from the Dollar Lake Fire, is a sign of continued active fire behavior and burnout operations along the now 4,500-acre blaze, actively moving west across the north side of Mount Hood.
Fueled by unstable wind and weather conditions, dry desert air blowing from the east and dense fuel, the fire took a large run to the west over the weekend, roughly doubling in size from Thursday to Saturday. Closures - and areas threatened by the fire - now range from Cloud Cap Inn and the Cooper Spur on the eastern perimeter to Lost Lake and Lolo Pass areas to the west.
An inversion layer held smoke low over the fire through Monday, starving it of some oxygen and keeping behavior relatively calm. The spread to the west toward the Bull Run Watershed, large islands of unburned fuel within the fire perimeter, potential for extreme fire behavior and predicted severe fire weather forecasted through this week has increased the priority of the incident. A national type-I team took over operations of the fire Monday, integrating efforts with the type-II team that had been managing the incident from the fairgrounds in Odell since last week.
"On Saturday, 20 mph east winds, gusting to 30 mph, pushed the fire three miles to the west in the Mount Hood Wilderness," noted fire information officers. "The westward spread of the fire and its proximity to Bull Run Watershed increased the complexity of the fire, causing officials to order a National Type I fire team."
In anticipation of extreme fire weather and unstable atmospheric conditions predicted to start today, firefighters conducted burnout operations and constructed a fireline that they hope will slow or stop the spread of fire in those areas if or when it approaches. They also took advantage of reduced fire behavior caused by the thick, low-level smoke to complete and mop up containment lines in the Coe Creek drainage on the north and east perimeter of the fire. Crews continue to water the historic structures in the Cloud Cap and Tilly Jane area.
On the other flank of the fire to the west, crews conducted burnout operations along Pinnacle Ridge and worked to establish fire lines in the Mazama Trail/Cathedral Ridge area.
Pacific Crest Trail hikers, rerouted by the fire, have been advised to detour around the fire by walking along Highway 35 and Interstate 84 to Cascade Locks, or along Highway 35 to Dee, to Rainy Lake, to Wahtum Lake and on to Cascade Locks.