"It'll come back," Kevin Gorman, executive director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge said, obviously dismayed as a forest fire rages through the beautiful natural area he and his organization are dedicated to protecting.
"More than one person has said to me they feel like they've lost a loved one."
The Eagle Creek Fire started Saturday, Sept. 2, and exploded to more than 10,000 acres by Tuesday afternoon. Interstate 84 from Troutdale to Hood River remained closed Tuesday. The railroad through the area is closed. Investigators believe fireworks were to blame for the blaze.
"Flames are licking at Multnomah Falls Lodge. The Oneonta Tunnel is on fire," he said. "It really hurts."
Fire authorities said more than 450 firefighters from 10 companies from Portland, Hillsboro, Gresham and elsewhere worked through the night to provide structure protection. Firefighters are making a stand to protect the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge. As of late Tuesday morning, there were no known residential structure losses.
"The good news is the winds are dying down. But the Gorge has been so, so, so dry," he sighed.
Brisk east winds are expected to continue through Tuesday and the winds are expected to switch to westerly winds on Wednesday, gusting to 15 miles per hour.
By 2 a.m. Tuesday, the fire jumped the Columbia River into Washington and is burning near Archer Mountain. Washington Route 14 is open to passenger cars, but closed to commercial vehicles.
Gorman said he was heartened by the Sunday rescue of more than 150 hikers cut off by the sudden spread of the fire. "I was struck by the work of the rescuers."
The Friends set up a donation page so people could donate funds to support the Hood River County Search and Rescue and has already raised more than $5,000 for the group that brought the hikers to safety.
But Gorman's good mood turned sour as fire devastated more and more of the Gorge.
"The Gorge will recover at its own speed. We will figure out how to support that happening," he said. "We're not going to know until the smoke literally clears what the damage is."