Forest closures from wildfire impacts tourists and firefighters

The recent rainfall has been helping crews battling the Terwilliger Fire, but it's also limiting access to certain areas.

Posted: Sep 13, 2018 7:25 PM
Updated: Sep 13, 2018 7:30 PM

BLUE RIVER, Ore. -- The recent rainfall has been helping crews battling the Terwilliger Fire at Cougar Reservoir, but it's also limiting access to certain areas.

Willamette National Forest officials have closed Forest Road 19 to all traffic, including both tourists and firefighters.

"We just drove two and a half hours to get here, so it's kind of a bummer," said Sara, who was visiting Oregon from Connecticut.

A stop at Terwilliger Hot Springs was an adventure that was at the top of her and her friend Emily's list. Right now, it's closed to the public because of the Terwilliger Fire.

Forest Road 19 is the way to get there, but officials said it's not safe to travel on because of falling debris.

"There's trees that are up on cliffs that are falling down onto the roadways as well as boulders," said Jerry Van Dyne, a safety officer trainee for the Willamette National Forest.

The road was already dangerous because of the fire, but the recent rain has made it worse.

"It loosens the soils and you get rocks coming down, [and] the trees, so it's not safe," said Brent Meisinger, part of the crew battling the fire.

Meisinger said the rain has dropped fire activity. It's a welcome change after the extreme conditions crews were battling when the fire first started in mid-August.

Nearly 460 firefighters are working out on the fire line doing mop up work and patrolling, Meisinger said.

There are still closures in place for trails and campgrounds near the fire. Officials are asking hikers and hunters to check closures beforehand so they aren't disappointed.

As of Thursday evening, the Terwilliger Fire has burned 10,948 acres and is 66 percent contained.

For more information on the closures, click here.

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