Fire in The Gorge

Fire in the Gorge by Alex Ellifritz

One of Oregon’s most frequently-visited places, the Columbia River Gorge caught fire over the Labor Day weekend, due to a 15 year old boy’s extreme negligence. The wildfire covered 35,600 acres and just 11 percent is contained as of September 20. The night of September 10, the fire jumped the Columbia River Gorge. Sparking the smaller Archer Mountain fire in Washington state.

This is not Oregon’s largest wildfire – the 177,000 acre Chetco Bar fire is – the Eagle Creek fire stands out due to the fact that it’s so close to a major urban area. The Gorge is a treasured place. “It’s where I had my first hike, it’s also a place where many people have gotten engaged, also a place where many people have enjoyed their final moments,” said Jacob McFarland, a sophomore from Portland, Oregon. Nationally, people are the cause of over 84 percent of wildfires according to oregonlive.com. In the Pacific Northwest, human caused wildfires happen near the major metropolitan regions of Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

The Eagle Creek fire now covers almost 35,600 acres and is 11 percent contained a jump in both acreage and containment from last week. The acreage growth is due to natural progression of the blaze. Firefighters can’t access parts of the fire that are burning in hazardous terrain, so they’re praying for some rain. The seven-day forecast shows rain is anticipated early next week in the western Columbia River Gorge. A half to 1 inch is expected to fall in the western gorge late Sunday night through Tuesday. A lot of areas that have burned, will recover from the fire within a couple years. In other areas, the signs of the blaze will remain for a bit longer. Tivoli Sisco, a senior said she has vacationed in Hood River with her family and hiked the gorge and visited a bunch of waterfalls, which were all very beautiful, but she is sad to know, “it’s never going to quite match those memories again.”

Well-intentioned efforts to help replant and rebuild the Columbia River Gorge are popping up on social media. But the U.S. Forest Service is warning that those efforts could end up doing more harm than good. It may not be safe to go into some of these areas for quite some time. The Forest Service is asking the public to stay out of the Gorge, not only for now but for weeks after the fire stops burning. Hillsides will remain unstable and dangerous. Justin Eggimann, a junior from Oregon said, “as soon as they give the okay to start replanting the Gorge I will be there to help because its very sad to watch things go.”

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