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Red flag warning prompts fire department to close Cooks Butte Park for the weekend

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lake Oswego Fire Marshal Gert Zoutendijk posts a closure notice Thursday at a trailhead leading into Cooks Butte Park. The park will remain closed through the weekend.UPDATE: Cooks Butte Park will remain closed Monday due to the area's extreme weather conditions and because the Lake Oswego Fire Department has dispatched some of its wildfire-fighting equipment to help in Estacada. Officials said they will re-evaluate the situation Tuesday morning.

High winds buffeting the Portland area and a red flag warning from the National Weather Service prompted the the department to close the park through the weekend. Fire Marshal Gert Zoutendijk said the closure, which went into effect Thursday afternoon, was designed to help prevent the kind of human-caused fire that blackened a half-acre behind West Linn High School earlier this week. That blaze was sparked when a photographer’s equipment malfunctioned.

"With a red flag warning and very high winds expected, we are extremely concerned about this park and the surrounding homes," Zoutendijk said. "This extreme weather combination, which is rare for our city or the Metro area, creates a high fire danger."

Red flag warnings generally are issued when low humidity and strong winds combine with critically dry conditions to create a dramatic increase in the possibility of wildfires. The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the Portland metro area Thursday morning and said it would remain in effect until at least 8 p.m. Sunday.

Cooks Butte Park is a popular destination for hikers, with soft-surface trails and beautiful views. Trailheads enter the 42-acre park on Delenka Lane, Palisades Crest Drive, Westview Drive and Shipley Drive.

Lake Oswego fire officials also urged residents to use extreme caution in and around their homes and neighborhoods this weekend. Among the safety tips to consider:

• Do not discard any smoking materials except in approved containers.

• Only place BBQ ashes in a metal container. Ashes can stay hot for longer periods of time.

• Keep your yard watered and plant fire resistive plants when possible.

• Have a fire break between vegetation and your house.

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