Friday, September 4, 2015

Area closure reduced on Phillips Creek Fire

Pendleton, Oregon: An area closure surrounding the footprint of the Phillips Creek Fire on National Forest has been reduced to a smaller area of the fire, west of Phillips Creek Road. This area is still a major concern for public safety because of fire weakened trees and unstable slopes.
“The area closure allows travel on open forest roads within and surrounding the fire perimeter while prohibiting access into the most unsafe and unstable burned area,” said Mike Rassbach, District Ranger on the Walla Walla Ranger District. Travelers should refer to the Motorized Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) for information on the current open forest road system.
The Phillips Creek Fire burned 2,601 acres northwest of Elgin, Oregon and is currently 85% contained. Firefighting resources will continue to patrol the fire perimeter and mop up interior hot spots until the fire is declared out. The closure will be posted at the road intersections where still in effect. A copy of the area closure map is available at all Umatilla National Forest offices as well as on the Umatilla National Forest website at:
Lifting these closures will allow access within the footprint of the fire.  “People should use caution when entering a recently burned wildfire area,” warned Rassbach.  “It’s important they understand the increased hazards created by the wildfire itself.”Hazard trees or snags tend to pose the most imminent threat.  Dead or dying trees that remain standing after a wildfire are unstable, especially in high winds.  “People are more likely to be aware of obstacles on the ground but don’t often look up to assess danger,” said Rassbach.  Other hazards to be aware of include:

  • Burned-out stump holes can make the ground weak and subject to failure.
  • Loose rocks and logs are unpredictable and present the hazard of rolling debris.
  • Ash and fallen needles are slippery and can make for treacherous footing on trails.
  • Flash floods and mud flows may occur, especially in areas without vegetation.
 People intending to hike into, or near, the fire area should remain alert and aware of their surroundings at all times.  Know the forecasted weather before entering the area, assess the weather conditions while in the area, and stay clear of burned trees. Don’t camp or hang out in the wildfire area.  And, as always, let someone know your planned route, destination and expected return time.Area Closure Description: Beginning at the point where FSR 3738, Phillips Creek Rd (section 2) enters the forest, west along the forest boundary to FSR 3740 northwest along FSR 3740 then east to junction of FSR 3738, then south along FSR 3738 Phillips Creek Rd to beginning point at Forest Boundary (section 2).
For more information, contact the Walla Walla Ranger District Office at 509-522-6290.

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