Fire Management

Eagle Creek Fire Story

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Explore the fire and response through compelling photos.

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A burning stump

 

Current Situation, Spring 2018

Due to Eagle Creek Fire and related safety concerns in the burn area, there is a legal closure in effect until further notice. The Forest Service is currently working diligently to monitor and assess conditions in the Gorge safely while coordinating with partner groups and community members to help plan & implement volunteer activities and work parties as conditions allow.

About the Eagle Creek Fire

A fire starts

A fireman reporting into a hand held radio near a red truckJust after 4 p.m. on September 2, 2017, a new fire start was reported roughly a mile from the popular Eagle Creek Trailhead in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. A nearby fire, known as Indian Creek Fire, had been smoldering about 7 miles up Eagle Creek Trail since July 4. U.S. Forest Service (USFS) firefighters responded within minutes, beginning work with available air resources from Indian Creek Fire and ordering additional air resources to drop water and retardant on the rapidly growing new blaze. Meanwhile, USFS coordinated with county officials and volunteers to rescue more than 150 hikers caught on the rugged, uphill south side of Eagle Creek Trail. As the fire grew to 3,000 acres overnight, it crested a ridge above the town of Cascade Locks, Oregon, prompting firefighters and law enforcement to call for parts of the town to evacuate.

On September 4th, east winds and excessive heat pushed the fire west towards small communities in Multnomah County, Oregon, and it spread across highly visible ridges of the National Scenic Area and closed Interstate 84. By the morning of September 5th, the fire had combined with nearby Indian Creek Fire to reach 20,000 acres and had thrown a spotfire across the Columbia River to Archer Mountain, Washington. The efforts of firefighters, cooler temperatures, and higher humidity helped slow fire growth in the days that followed, but the fire grew to the east and ultimately reached more than 48,000 acres.

Eagle Creek Fire was highly visible, draped as it was across the slopes of a widely photographed and highly visited National Scenic Area. It captured widespread regional and national attention for various reasons. It rapidly spread through hillsides covered with a lush Western Cascades forest that had not seen a large wildfire in roughly a hundred years, rained ash down on the city of Portland, smoldered near the administrative boundary of Portland’s water supply at Bull Run, and closed key forms of transportation through the only sea-level route through the Cascades Mountain Range (including I-84, Union Pacific railroad, and Columbia River traffic). It affected commercial and recreational interests on the nearby Columbia River, a critical regional waterway with a large hydroelectric dam and several hatcheries.

Legacy of collaboration

Since its inception, the National Scenic Area has relied on close cooperation between federal, state, local, tribal, and private entities to maintain a working and livable landscape that sustains ecological health. Eagle Creek Fire, while challenging, provides an opportunity to work closely together with partners in response – to restore and sustain a livable landscape in the Columbia River Gorge.