Crews working to reopen Highway 138E; evacuation levels downgraded

Evacuation levels have been downgraded due to progress being made on the fire.

Posted: Jul 14, 2021 6:02 PM
Updated: Jul 14, 2021 6:28 PM

STEAMBOAT, Ore. – Highway 138E has been closed for more than a week due to the Jack Fire in Douglas County, but now crews say the road could be back open by the weekend.

Meanwhile, evacuation levels along the Highway 138E area have been downgraded. For the latest list of evacuation levels, CLICK HERE.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials say the highway was first closed on July 5 when the fire was first reported. The closure has been in effect between Steamboat and Slide Creek -- milepost 38 to 55 -- ever since.

So far, the damage has been minimal, compared to previous fires in the area, officials said.

“The fire burned in steep, rocky terrain but we didn’t have nearly as many big trees fall across the highway as we’ve seen in previous fires,” said ODOT Interim District Manager Jeremiah Griffin.

Several hazard trees and other debris are still on or near the highway, but crews are working to hit their goal of reopening the road this weekend.

“Reopening a highway after a wildfire is a balance,” said Griffin. “We work closely with our partners in any post fire assessment, and weigh public and worker safety on when to reopen.”

Crews will also need to evaluate burnt signs and sections of guardrail, as well as make plans to replace them.

Even if the road reopens, drivers are urged to use caution, watch for crews and expect delays due to slower speeds in some areas. Delays are expected to last throughout the summer between Idleyld and Steamboad – milepost 21 to 38 – and near Diamond Lake – milepost 76 to 80 – due to rehabilitation work tied to last year’s Archie Creek and Thielsen fires.

Crews fighting the Jack Fire are looking forward to cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity the next few days, which will help them hold the fire within the planned containment line.

North of Highway 138, firefighters are continuing to hold, secure and mop-up along the 4760 Road moving east toward Dog Mountain. They are also burning vegetation away from containment lines in the northeast corner of the perimeter and continuing mop-up around structures in the Dry Creek area. Along the western perimeter south of the highway, the fire continues to move south along the 4714 Road.

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