Forest fires close some mountain bike trails near Oakridge

OAKRIDGE, Ore. - Three trails near Oakridge popular with mountain bikers are closed due to fires ignited by lightning.

A cluster of forest fires ignited by lightning near Oakridge on Sunday and Monday aren't growing but are forcing public land managers to close trails and roads.

The Willamette National Forest issued an area closure that includes Larison Rock, Lawler and Deception Creek trails, as well as roads in the area, until further notice.

The trails are all close to Oakridge, where the summer's second Mountain Bike Oregon event is set to begin Friday.

"We're working with Mountain Bike Oregon to make sure they have a great event," said Jude McHugh with the Willamette National Forest.

"We always have a plan B," said Randy Dreiling, who runs the Mountain Bike Oregon festival.

The event and the Forest Service have worked in tandem on the issue.

"We have adjusted closures where possible to allow for the continued use of a trail and also for use of a road that's within a closure area," said Katie Isacksen with the Willamette National Forest.

Mountain Bike Oregon had planned to use both Larison Rock and Lawler trails, but not Deception Creek.

"While it's unfortunate we don't have these 2 trails, it could be worse - and they've been great to work with," he said of the Forest Service.

Dreiling said the bike event will begin on schedule Friday, bringing riders from around the globe.

"We've had people now from almost 30 countries, every Canadian province, every United States - we have regulars from Miami," he said. | IF YOU GO: Share your videos & photos

Such trail closures have happened before in the Mountain Bike Capital of Oregon: In 2012, a fire closed a portion of the famed Alpine Trail.

Deception Complex fires

McHugh said firefighters hit the fires hard with helicopter bucket drops earlier this week.

"What we're finding on the fires more generally is the heat stays in those logs down on the ground, so the smoke continues to go up," she said. "But fire growth really slowed down."

The fires are being managed as the Deception Creek Complex, a cluster of 12 fires ranging in size from 1/4 acre to 18 acres.

On Thursday, a 20-person crew completed fire line around a 3-acre fire south of Oakridge near Larison Rock. They plan to place "cup trenches" in the area to catch rolling logs and burning material, while tree fallers work to remove snags and fire-weakened trees.

Oakridge itself is no longer under a Red Flag Warning. Earlier this week, the National Weather Service placed all of Oregon on notice that lightning strikes could spark new fires in tinder dry forests.

The increased humidity with the current weather pattern has helped slow the spread of fires ignited by lightning earlier this week, McHugh said.

"So we're putting crews where it's safe and efficient and using this period to get some good progress while the weather is still wet," said Brandy Richardson with the Middle Fork Ranger District.

Area closure map

Link to area closure document