Cougar Peak Fire burns over uranium mines

LAKEVIEW, Ore. — Firefighters continue to work to contain the Cougar Peak Fire in Lakeview. It’s grown to over 86,000 acres.

Fire officials say within 24 hours of its start, it burned over two mines located within one mile of each other.  The White King Mine, and the Lucky Lass Mine.

The Environmental Protection Agency, says the site encompasses 140 acres affected by uranium mining, which happened in the 1950s and ’60s. The former mine site is currently operated and maintained, with the US Forest Service, through an inter-agency agreement with the EPA.

Previous mining operations at the site left behind contaminated soil, surface water, and groundwater with heavy metals and radioactive elements. The EPA and fire officials say, there is no exposed radioactive material in the air, because of past site clean-ups.

“It’s been remediated and cleaned up and there’s no exposed radioactive material there, but we are aware of it,” said Tamara Schmidt, a spokesperson with the Fremont Winema National Forest.

An ongoing yearly monitor of the site is done by the forest service and EPA.

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