Firefighters discovered a small fire burning on the south side of Mount Hood on Monday morning, and shut down popular hiking trails as crews quickly worked to contain it.
The fire had burned about 2 acres in Heather Canyon at the Mount Hood Meadows ski area as of noon on Monday, according to the Mount Hood National Forest, as firefighters sent out crews by foot and helicopter to stamp it out.
The action could be seen live on one of Mount Hood Meadows’ live cameras, which showed helicopters dumping water on the fire, and smoke began to settle across the rest of the ski area.
Mount Hood Meadows has been closed this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, but several popular hiking trails pass through the area to destinations like Elk Meadows and Umbrella Falls.
Heather Ibsen, spokeswoman for the Mount Hood National Forest, said the Elk Meadows and Sahalie Falls Trailhead would be temporarily closed, as well as the Timberline Trail between Timberline Lodge and Cloud Cap. Firefighters will be using some of those trails to access the fire, she said.
Officials don’t know yet what caused the wildfire, Ibsen said. There are no established campgrounds in the area, but backpackers do pass through on the Timberline Trail. She also said it could have been caused by lightning, and may have been smoldering for some time. Campfires are currently banned in the Mount Hood National Forest.
Crews took an aggressive approach to containing the fire Monday, due to concerns about the dry conditions and high winds expected to arrive Monday evening. The National Weather Service has predicted gusts up to 65 mph in some parts of the region, and has issued a red flag warning through Wednesday evening.
“That is one of the reasons they’re already using aviation, already using helicopters to drop water on it,” Ibsen said of the new fire. “Everybody’s watching the forecasted east winds and the red flag warning.”