Containment improves on gorge fire
Firefighters are gaining ground on the Eagle Creek Fire, which has been scorching the Columbia River Gorge for 10 days.
The fire grew Monday, Sept 11, and now covers more than 35,500 acres as of Tuesday morning, said Jim Whittington, a fire information officer with the Bureau of Land Management.
About 905 firefighters are battling the blaze, down from about 1,000 said, Lt. Damon Simmons with the Oregon State Fire Marshal's office. "We are in a good place today," he said, "but this afternoon is going to be a big test."
Firefighters have the blaze about 11 percent contained, an improvement from earlier. Wittington said the fire will not be 100 percent contained "until we get some significant winter weather."
Whittington said weather conditions will be dry and breezy in the gorge today, but "if we can make it through today," there will be cooler weather coming up and "we are looking forward to that."
Whittington said it will continue to be smokey as some unburned "islands" potentially burn.
The human-caused Eagle Creek Fire started Saturday, Sept. 2, and merged with the nearby Indian Creek Fire overnight Tuesday Sept. 5.
People come from all over the world to hike, fish, camp and enjoy the beauty of The Columbia River Gorge. Many people are worried about the many hiking trails that wind through the gorge. Stephen Baker, with the U.S. Forest Service said "We do not yet know the extent of the damage from the Eagle Creek Fire" on the trials.
After a forest fire, trails are typically covered with debris and when rain starts landslides could damage the trails in the steep gorge terrain. Baker urged everyone who wants to help restore the Gorge to connect with one of the many organizations that does such work and begin to train to be ready when the restoration efforts begin.
About 400 homes have been evacuated and Red Cross shelters are providing food, water, shelter, health services and emotional support for approximately 170 people at two shelters. The Red Cross has distributed about 8,000 meals and snacks since the start of the relief operation.
Tuesday, Sept. 12, the Red Cross is moving the Gresham fire relief shelter to Harvest Christian Church at 624 S.W. Halsey St. from the Mt. Hood Community College gym, said Monique Dugaw, regional director of communications for the Red Cross. The other shelter at the Skamania County Fairgrounds remains in place. There are about 24 people at the Gresham shelter, some inside and some in their RVs in the parking lot and about 146 at the fairgrounds.
There have been no changes in evacuation areas or levels.
Interstate 84 remains closed from Troutdale to Hood River, but The Oregon Department of Transportation is removing about 3,500 damaged trees and hopes to have the westbound lanes of I-84 open in a few days. Eastbound lanes, which run next to the fire, will take longer to make safe for traffic. The Historic Columbia River Highway remains closed in the area.