WILDFIRES -- Faced with a red-flag wind warning, the road from Mazama to Harts Pass and a popular trailhead for the Pasayten Wilderness was closed today -- on the eve of Washington's high-mountain buck deer hunting season -- because of the Diamond Creek Fire.
Apparently caused by a careless camper on July 23, the fire has swept through the wilderness and into Canada charring 95,400 acres.
"The decision was made to close Harts Pass Road to public traffic to minimize impediments to suppression activities and for safety in the event of an evacuation along that narrow mountain road in smoky conditions," according to the fire incident website.
The closure, at this point, does not affect hikers already on the Pacific Crest Trail heading north from Harts Pass to Canada.
The most disappointed user group might be hunters who'd planned to be in the wilderness for the Sept. 15 opener of Washington's high buck hunting season. The season is scheduled a month before lowland seasons to allow hunters into the high Cascades before snows shut down safe access.
A Forest Service backcountry ranger posted on Facebook today that it was bummer to have to give wilderness travelers the bad news that they had to turn back.
Hope for fire control is in the air, though. Starting Sunday a new system will bring a chance for rain in the lowlands and the potential for snow above 6,000 foot elevations.
Closures: The campgrounds at Ballard and River Bend and the Harts Pass Road are closed. The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at this time. The public should be aware that the fire situation is fluid and that new closures could occur with little advance warning. There are currently more than 60 roads or trails closed for public safety including Monument Trail #484 and Andrews Creek #504. Complete closure details and maps are available at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/