Oregon wildfire ravages picturesque Columbia River Gorge
Wednesday, September 6, 2017, 4:47 - A wildfire outside Portland, Oregon, forced hundreds of local residents to evacuate on Tuesday (September 5) as it ravaged the picturesque Columbia River Gorge and sent burning embers raining on communities miles away.
The so-called Eagle Creek Fire, which has burned nearly 31,000 acres since it broke out on Saturday, has torn through timber in the gorge, destroying landmarks in one of the Pacific Northwest's most prized natural areas, officials said.
Columbia River Gorge. 10:30pm. Fires aren't supposed to do this at night. pic.twitter.com/Iix8rkPJ2R— Andy Diacetis (@andydiacetis) September 5, 2017
"Our hearts are breaking," Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said at a news conference. "The Gorge is Oregon's crown jewel."
The blaze was one of 81 large fires burning in the United States on Tuesday, with more than 28 burning in Montana and nearly 20 in Oregon, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The blazes over the last several days have created unhealthy air conditions in some areas.
Winds sent ash raining down on Portland about 30 miles (48 km) to the west of the fire on Tuesday, said Joanie Schmidgall, a spokeswoman for the team fighting the fire.
Lieutenant Damon Simmons, a spokesman for the Oregon state Fire Marshal's Office, told reporters that in his 18 years experience in the area he had never seen a wildfire propel ash as intensely as the Eagle Creek Fire.
The fire led authorities to order 400 households in Multnomah County, Oregon, to evacuate, county sheriff's spokesman Bryan White said at a news conference.
Interstate 84 remained closed from Troutdale to Hood River due to rocks, snags and other debris the roadway Wednesday (Sept. 6). Oregon Department of Transportation will be working closely with the Unified Command team to determine when it will be safe to open, InciWeb noted in an updated bulletin.
Winds have shifted to the west Wednesday, bringing cooler and moister air to the fire area.
"The wind shift could push the fire to the east, especially in the higher elevations in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness," InciWeb says. "A Fire Weather Watch is in effect this afternoon for potential lightning."
Oregon State Police officials said they continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire's cause. Officials said they had identified a 15-year-old boy from Vancouver who was suspected of starting the fire through the 'misuse of fireworks'.
For real time and current evacuation information, contact the Multnomah, Hood River, or Skamania County Sheriff's Offices.
Below is a look at some of the fire's impact as shared on social media and InciWeb.
It's incredibly sad to see the damage from the fire in our scenic Columbia River gorge. pic.twitter.com/AFPtmw4jQl— Mike Reese (@SheriffReese) September 6, 2017
Flying back into PDX tonight couldn't believe how potent the smell was. So sad. pic.twitter.com/0Tc7DSmTSB— Adam Phillips (@phillipsan) September 6, 2017