Fire rages near Terwilliger Hot Springs

The fire is burning in two places and has closed a popular scenic road and tourist destination.

Posted: Aug. 19, 2018 11:52 PM
Updated: Aug. 20, 2018 6:41 PM

BLUE RIVER, Ore. -- The Terwilliger Fire burning in two places near the Cougar Reservoir off of Highway 126 has closed down a popular scenic road and tourist destination.

Darren Cross with the U.S. Forest Service said the fire has burned 110 acres as of Monday morning, but the fire is expected to grow. Access to Forest Road 19, Aufderheide Scenic Highway, which leads to the Terwilliger Hot Springs, is now closed as crews work to get the fires under control.

Cross said the fire was first reported near the trail to the Terwilliger Hot Springs and said crews had to tell some campers and hikers to get out.

“Very soon after our folks arrived, it was pretty obvious that this fire was torching and getting up into the trees and going to move pretty quickly,” Cross said.

A father and son who were at Cougar Reservoir when the fire started said they narrowly escaped. Robert and Parker Noble said they saw flames as tall as six feet as they ran out of the forest.

"We were just running as fast as we could, and we got to a spot where the fire was crossing the trail," Robert Noble said. "It had started way down in the canyon, and it had come up the side of the mountain. And it had just started coming up the side of the trail, so we took our towels and put them over our mouths and ran as fast as we could through the fire."

Cross said he believes embers from the fire crossed the reservoir and started the second blaze.

A Type III Incident Management Team made up of 20 firefighters from New Mexico has been called in to take the lead on the firefighting efforts.

Crews are working to protect nearby private timberland. Chris Cline with the Oregon Department of Forestry said with so many other fires burning in Oregon and Washington, it's been hard getting the needed manpower and other resources.

“The system is really strapped right now nationally as well as regionally,” Cline said. “There are very few resources left available, so it's a very difficult situation.”

Officials said no structures are being threatened and no one has been injured. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Officials want to remind people that currently campfires outside of designated campgrounds within the Willamette National Forest are banned.

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