Eagle Creek Fire Jumps Columbia River Gorge Overnight

Sep 4, 2017
Originally published on October 20, 2017 1:15 pm

UPDATED (10:55 a.m. PST): The Eagle Creek Fire jumped the Columbia River Gorge overnight, sparking a smaller fire on the Washington side of the river Tuesday morning according to the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office.

Officials said that a spot fire known as the Archer Mountain Fire is burning about 25 acres near Archer Mountain on the Washington side. Another spot fire of nearly 100 acres is burning on the Oregon side near Rooster Rock State Park and Multnomah Falls. The fire prompted officials to declare a state of emergency in east Multnomah County Tuesday morning.

Related: School closures and delays in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington.

The Eagle Creek Fire started Saturday afternoon near Cascade Locks. Police say it was man-made, likely due to the use of fireworks. After growing slowly overnight Sunday from 3,000 acres to 3,200 acres by Monday afternoon, the fire swelled rapidly to more than 10,000 acres by 10 a.m. Tuesday, prompting a wave of fresh evacuations and road closures. The National Weather Service in Portland reported that the wildfire moved 12 miles westward through the Gorge between 9 p.m. Monday and 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson Dave Thompson said a stretch of Interstate 84, closed Monday evening due to the fire, remains closed through the Gorge from Troutdale to Hood River. He noted it will stay closed until conditions become safe.

"The fire is burning right along the interstate and it's just not safe," he said at a briefing early Tuesday morning. 

The Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks remains open to northbound traffic, but only for people fleeing the fire. It's closed to the general public and all southbound traffic is prohibited. Thompson also noted that Highway 30, the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, is closed to the general public as of Tuesday morning. And in Washington, officials closed State Route 14 to commercial truck traffic in both directions from Washougal to Dallesport. Regular traffic is permitted. 


The fire is threatening the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge. Posts on social media early Tuesday morning showed crews spraying the lodge and other facilities at Oregon's tallest waterfall to protect it from the spreading fire. 

Dammon Simmons, with the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office, said 10 task forces worked through the night on structural protection along the Oregon side of the Gorge. The fire remains uncontained as of Tuesday morning as efforts have focused on protecting property and lives. 

The growth of the human-caused wildfire prompted officials to issue Level 3 evacuation orders — meaning leave now — for Larch Mountain, Latourell, Bridal Veil, East Corbett, Dodson and Warrendale.

"Deputies and search and rescue teams have been out all night doing door-to-door notifications,” said Lt. Chad Gaisdos with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. "We are prepared to do that throughout the day should the fire advance to the west.”

The rest of Corbett and the community of Springdale was upgraded to a Level 2 notice early Tuesday morning. And in Cascade Locks, all areas previously under a Level 1 notice were bumped up to a Level 2 notice Monday night. In Washington, the Skamania County Sheriff's Office issued a Level 3 evacuation notice for areas on the south side of Archer Mountain. 

The Bonneville Dam, located a few miles west of Cascade Locks, is being staffed by "critical personnel only,” and some U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees have been told not to report to the dam for work due to safety issues.

"We’re still generating power and we’re still in normal operations with regard to that," said Army Corps spokeswoman Michelle Helms.

The fire forced the evacuation of nearly 300 homes between Sunday and Monday in Cascade Locks but notched minimal growth overnight heading into Monday. With winds relatively calm throughout the day, all seemed to be relatively calm in the Gorge until the fire rapidly started expanding Monday evening. 

Ryan Haas contributed to this story.

Copyright 2017 EarthFix. To see more, visit EarthFix.