Crews protecting Portland water supply from fires

Focused on protecting the water supply for the Oregon city of Portland, crews worked Tuesday to keep the wildfire on Mount Hood inside a wilderness area and scouted locations for backup fire lines linking fuel gaps created by old logging sites.

The 4,500-acre fire was three miles east of Bull Run Watershed, where firefighters labored to build containment lines before winds kick up Wednesday as forecast. Fire spokesman Peter Frenzen said officials expect the blaze to miss the watershed and nearby Bonneville Power Administration high-voltage transmission lines, but crews were building contingency lines as protection.

"Lots and lots of resources are arriving — dozers, water tenders," he said. "Two hotshot crews are working directly against the end of the fire inside the wilderness along Cathedral Ridge, where the Mazama Trail runs. They stayed out overnight. Essentially, they are tying that fire line into the base of the mountain."

Outside the wilderness, bulldozer crews were working to link fire lines to large gaps in the mature forest and roads left by past logging, Frenzen said. Officials closed Mount Hood National Forest Road 18 from Zigzag to Lost Lake and several campgrounds.

Among the trails closed was a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, forcing hikers trekking the path from Canada to Mexico to detour on local roads. The trail was closed inside Crater Lake National Park, but hikers were able to detour over a trail passing by the rim overlooking the lake.

Lightning sparked the blaze on Aug. 27. The fire had been burning slowly at high altitude through forest undergrowth before strong winds spurred a run three days ago. An air inversion that has kept a lid on unstable air has been lifting, allowing the fire to spread at night.

Frenzen said winds of 15 mph to 20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph, were expected.

On the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs reservation, fire crews expected to have multiple lightning-sparked blazes covering about 107,000 acres contained by Wednesday. No homes have been lost to the fire.

Meanwhile, crews made progress on a fire scorching pine and oak mostly on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, about 20 miles east of Medford, Ore. Another blaze inside the Mount Washington Wilderness about 15 miles west of Sisters closed the Big Lake Recreation Area.

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