Much of Mount Jefferson Wilderness closed as wildfires burn in Central Oregon

By Courtney Sherwood (OPB)
Sept. 6, 2020 6:55 p.m.

A fire weather watch is in effect for gusty winds and dry conditions Monday and Tuesday.

Much of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness was closed and 40 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail was declared off limits Sunday, as firefighters continued working to suppress the P-515 and Lionshead fires, which were burning on opposite sides of a creek on the Warm Springs Reservation.

The smaller P-515 fire is now completely lined, according to an update issued Sunday morning by incident commander Alan Lawson. But the larger Lionshead Fire grew to roughly 16,000 acres Saturday and was only 31% contained Sunday morning.


“With abundant dry fuels and both daytime and nighttime humidity values that continue to be very low, extremely active fire behavior is expected again today,” according to a Sunday morning press release about the two fires. “Winds on Sunday will be light and variable followed by a cold front on Monday moving from north to south with wind gusts expected to be 35-40 mph from the east-northeast. A fire weather watch is in effect for gusty winds and low humidity Monday and Tuesday.”

North of the Warm Springs Reservation, the White River Fire was within eight miles of the Wasco County community of Maupin and was about 50% contained. Some residents of the area are being encouraged to prepare for possible evacuations, but mandatory evacuation orders that were in place last week have been lifted as fire crews have gained ground on the blaze.

More than 1,700 firefighters have been deployed to Central Oregon to battle wildfires in the region.

Separately, about 150 firefighters were fully engaged with the Beachie Creek Fire in the Cascade Mountains, which was burning about 425 acres just north of the community of Detroit, according to an update shared Sunday by fire crews. That fire was burning in heavy timber on inaccessible, steep slopes. Several campgrounds in the area have been closed, and crews are bracing for dry winds that could spread the flames in the coming days.