Firefighters dig in against Mount Hood fire

Crews battling head-on against a fire on Mount Hood escaped strong winds forecast to whip up the flames Wednesday and instead bolstered lines protecting the watershed that provides most of the water for the city of Portland.

"We all expected to wake up to our tents rattling from east winds this morning," fire spokesman Peter Frenzen said. "Instead, it was calm."

"There are all the ingredients for intense burning. But so far, nothing to really trigger the types of fire behavior we are concerned about," he added.

Winds gusting to 35 mph were originally forecast but they missed the head of the fire within the Mount Hood Wilderness, where hotshot crews worked in the face of the flames to build containment lines, Frenzen said.

As a result, the fire remained three miles from the top of the Bull Run Watershed, which supplies most of the water to Portland.

With hot, dry weather lingering, Clackamas County declared a state of emergency in case the 4,500-acre fire moved closer to inhabited areas, particularly Lolo Pass, where roads and trails remained closed. The fire was nine miles away, Frenzen said.

Managers of federal lands in Lake and Klamath counties to the south also prohibited campfires outside developed campgrounds, smoking outside vehicles, parking and driving vehicles over dry grass and the use of chainsaws.

Campgrounds, roads and trails in the Lolo Pass area remained closed, including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Battling the blaze were more than 700 firefighters, a half-dozen helicopters dropping water on hot spots, and bulldozers carving out fire lines. It was about 20 percent contained.

Crews also were working at multiple fires on the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs reservation in Central Oregon. The fires, which cover a total of 167 square miles, was sparked by lightning on Aug. 24, and firefighters expected to have them contained by evening.

At the crest of the Cascade Range 15 miles west of Sisters, crews worked to stop the spread of the Lake fire, which grew to 5,500 acres, most of it within the Mount Washington Wilderness. The Big Lake recreation area and a section of the Pacific Crest Trail remained closed, including a youth camp evacuated last Friday.

Winds were pushing the fire west toward forests that have not burned in 200 years, said fire spokeswoman Katie Lighthall.

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