East Crater fire forces PCT closure in Washington

Wildfire closes popular national forest

GIFFORD PINCHOT NATIONAL FOREST, Wash. -- A new wildfire had burned at least 1,000 acres in Southwest Washington as of Monday night. The East Crater fire was reported on Sunday in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, about 12 miles west of the Trout Lake community.

The fire was burning in a remote area and wasn’t threatening any homes or structures. The blaze did, however, force the Forest Service to close a roughly 10 mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail that went through the area. Campgrounds within the Indian Heaven Wilderness area were also evacuated and shut down. Forest Service leaders weren’t immediately sure as to how many campers and hikers were affected.

“It’s a little frustrating,” said Rebekah Lee who was hiking the Pacific Crest trail with family and friends. Lee’s group was forced to take a detour because of the fire. It’s not the first time that’s happened either. Lee says her group was also impacted by the Eagle Creek fire near Cascade Locks and other wildfires. “We’ve been already having to walk around a lot of closures and it was another unexpected one that we didn’t know about hitting,” she said.

The group starting hiking the Pacific Crest Trail starting in Mexico back in April and had been planning the massive hike for nearly three years. “It’s irritating, but we have to do it,” said Lee’s sister, Rachel. The group wasn’t discouraged by the detour, though. “At this point, I feel like I’m towards the end and I’ll just do what I have to do to get there, to get to Canada,” Rebekah added.

As of Monday evening, the fire was burning uncontrolled and without any containment lines. A type three firefighting team from Pasco, WA arrived in the area Monday afternoon to begin operations. “There are no type two teams available right now. So we’re going to go to work on this until we see what happens,” said incident commander Bob Gear. Typically, a type two team is larger and more complex than a type three team. Gear added that local crews were already very busy fighting other wildfires in the area. “Everything is spread out real thin. The start of school had a real major impact in the last couple of weeks on our ability to even field people for ongoing fires.”

Gear said that the team’s firefighting strategy will be based on what resources they can get. The cause of the East Crater fire was still under investigation.  

© 2017 KGW-TV


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