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Waldo Mountain Lookout will be wrapped up to protect it from wildfire

Gold Butte Lookout
File photo
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Willamette National Forest
Firefighters wrapped the Gold Butte Lookout near Detroit, OR in each of the last two summers to protect it from advancing blazes. Fire officials said the lookout survived the fires.

An historic fire lookout in the Willamette National Forest will be wrapped up as part of an effort to protect it from an oncoming wildfire. The 1950's era Waldo Mountain Lookout is in the potential path of the Cedar Creek Fire, which is burning about 12 miles east of Oakridge.

The protective wrap "looks like aluminum foil, but it’s not," said Kris Eriksen, fire public information officer for the Willamette National Forest. "It’s a heat-reflective material. It probably wouldn’t withstand direct flame in a roaring forest fire, but it will certainly protect it to a certain extent.”

The Waldo Mountain Lookout is "unstaffed and no longer a functioning lookout," according to the Forest.

It's not the first time the "wrap-it-up" strategy has been used.

"Sometimes it saves structures but sometimes it doesn’t," said Middle Fork District Ranger Molly Juillerat. "Old wooden structures just don’t fare well in fires."

Forest officials said at least two wildfire lookouts have burned due to wildfires in Oregon since 2017.

As of Friday morning, the Cedar Creek Fire had burned just over 1,000 acres of remote terrain. The Waldo Lake Wilderness area is closed, as is the section of the forest on the west side of the lake. But on Friday, the lake itself and the forest service campgrounds on the east side of the lake remained open.

Forest officials said people camping in the Waldo Lake area should be ready to leave if needed.

“When the time came, when there was a closure, forest service patrols as well as Lane County Search & Rescue will go out and will find and notify all campers in the area of the closure," said Eriksen. "And they should let them know in plenty of time. It won’t be a rush to get out. They’ll let them know that it’s time to leave.”

Officials say there’s no reason to think the blaze will threaten the town of Oakridge, as the fire has only been spreading to the east.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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