Wednesday, October 3, 2012
With the danger of falling boulders and other hazards a real threat, the Mosier Twin Tunnels trail, connected to the Mark O. Hatfield State Park above Hood River, will be closed to pedestrians and cyclists for up to a month or more.
“The clear message to the public needs to be that the trail is closed to everyone but assigned personnel,” said Diane McClay, park ranger supervisor for Oregon State Parks and Recreation.
“There is still a safety concern for firefighters on the ground. When the public starts to breech that fire line, now the firefighters’ attention gets diverted from the job they are supposed to be doing to dealing with the public.
“It diminishes their ability to focus. With people on the trail fire fighters are at risk and the public is at risk. We really need everyone’s cooperation.”
As a result of the now-contained Milepost 66 fire that swept through the surrounding hills beginning last Tuesday, rocks, logs, dirt and debris now litter the scenic and popular route. The fire is contained but still active, with flare-ups and smoke expected for some time.
“This is much like the Microwave fire,” said Mark Stevenson, OSPR representative. “When we drag hoses and shoot water during the firefighting efforts, we get loads of debris onto the Historic Highway trail. Rocks, logs — it’s all out there and it is pretty impassable.
“It should take us a good two weeks to clear the trail. It could take another month or so of daily rock removal to keep the road clear and safe,” said Stevenson. “It is also dependent upon the weather.
“Once the rains come, we’ll have a lot of dirt and debris coming down,” said Stevenson. “We are waiting for the rains to bring it all down, and the rain will also help stabilize the area.”
According to Stevenson, the burned areas include OSPR lands, National Scenic Area lands and private properties. Erin Black, U.S. Forest Service National Scenic Area representative coordinating with the unified command team, noted, “The Milepost 66 fire is contained, boxed in; but not controlled. They are still putting out hot spots.
“The trail will be closed even after the fire is fully out until we can assess hazards from snags or falling rocks, and it will be up to Oregon State Parks to determine the actual reopen date.”
Stevenson articulated some of the hazard details saying, “Most of the firefighting didn’t happen in evening or night because of the constant danger from falling logs and rocks. The time estimate to reopen can change but local bike riders were already starting to use the trail again. We are asking them to stay off for at least a month and a half. This is not a passable trail.”
Aided by calm winds, firefighters completed the containment line around the Milepost 66 fire on Sept. 27.
The fire, two miles east of Hood River, was contained at 70 acres by about 120 firefighters and two helicopters.
According to Stevenson, the cause of the fire is still under investigation but it is not believed to be the result of mischief.