Going to Oregon for the eclipse? Fires could bring smoky skies in some places

Traffic jams are a sure bet — and fire and smoky skies are a wild card for those headed south to Oregon’s zone of totality for the Aug. 21 eclipse.

A corridor that runs from the Oregon Coast to the Idaho border is prime real estate for those seeking clear skies to experience the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

This zone of totality — more than 60 miles wide — also is fire country that has been baking through intense summer heat. As of Saturday, at least four significant blazes were burning in or close to the zone, and overnight lightning ignited more in advance of cooler weather.

All of this makes fire and smoky skies a serious wild card as Oregon prepares for the massive in-migration of eclipse watchers. Oregon officials estimate that as many as 1 million people could converge on the state, creating record traffic jams and vastly complicating responses to fires or any other emergencies.

Be prepared

• Arrive early and stay late for the Aug. 21 eclipse. Oregon and Washington state transportation officials advise against trying to make it a one-day trip.

• Bring food, water and an emergency kit, and arrive in the zone with a full tank of gas.

• Don’t park on highway shoulders during the eclipse, as you will block emergency vehicles.

• Carry a paper map, as cell service may be spotty.

“We are working with all the fire agencies to be strategic about where resources are staged, ” said Nathan Garibay, emergency services manager for Deschutes County in central Oregon. “But please don’t park on roadsides, because that could easily create a situation where there is no place for emergency vehicles to go. And be patient.”

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Garibay also cautions visitors to take care when camping, and to avoid idling their cars in off-road areas where heat from a vehicle could easily start a fire.

One central Oregon fire — Whitewater — has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to close a large portion of trails in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness that was expected to be a prime viewing area for backpackers.

At the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, another place that will draw visitors, fire crews scrambled in recent days to try to contain a fire just north of the zone of totality. The blaze destroyed several structures and threatened 140 homes as it burned through juniper, grass and dense stands of ponderosa pine.

Fire maps Saturday also noted blazes south of…

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