Erosion and muddy flows in streams expected in areas affected by Eagle Creek wildfire.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Trees have been removed from this denuded landscape on the east side of Interstate 84. Rain showers sent hundreds of firefighters packing on Monday, Sept. 18, even as fire officials warned that the water heightened the risk of mud and landslides near the Eagle Creek wildfire in the Columbia River Gorge.

"Heavy rain can trigger landslides and debris flows in steep terrain, and the risk is higher in burn areas," warned Bill Burns, an engineering geologist at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. "Be aware of the landslide hazard, and avoid burn areas."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - A hillside in the Columbia River Gorge. The number of firefighters staffing the fire lines has dropped to about 630, down roughly 300 from peak assignments. The conflagration has spread to 48,387 acres and is now more than one-third contained.

Helicopter bucket drops continue on the east side of Shellrock Mountain, though many firefighters are busy removing unnecessary equipment and preparing fire barriers for expected erosion caused by stormwater.

While rain is certainly good news for first responders, authorities caution that higher wind speeds may aid the fire's spread, while rain may fill smaller streams with debris and mud.

"No significant additional growth is expected on the fire given predicted weather," fire officials wrote in a press announcement. "Even with rain, smoldering and creeping fire can be expected within the fire perimeter for some time. Smoke will continue to be visible."

Across the Columbia River, the Archer Mountain fire in Skamania County, Wash., has been declared fully contained within a 260-acre area. As of press time, Interstate 84 eastbound remains closed, though westbound traffic is flowing freely between Hood River and Troutdale.

Triggered by a cold front, rain is forecasted to continue through Thursday, with sunnier skies returning on Friday, according to reports from the National Weather Service. OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Tree removal crews scour a Columbia River Gorge hillside for dead or dying trees caused by the Eagle Creek Fire. While solving one problem, this also exacerbates the risk of landslides during the coming winter months.

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