PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Eagle Creek Fire and Indian Creek Fire merged into one 32,000-acre fire in the Columbia River Gorge. That means the Eagle Creek Fire is now covering about 50 square miles, which is bigger than the city of Eugene (40 square miles).
Officials said firefighters have kept the fire’s growth moderate after it exploded over Monday night. On Tuesday, it jumped 13 miles and across the Columbia River in 16 hours and was still 0% contained early Wednesday.
“The fire’s been devastating,” Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said.
The Indian Creek Fire started on July 4, 2017 in the Eagle Creek Trail system. Before it merged with the Eagle Creek Fire, it was burning 1,090 acres and 10% contained. The cause is unknown.
“Let me paint the picture for you. Sunday evening the fire was to the east. The wind started blowing from the east to the west and we knew as it headed this direction there were homes …. that we needed to protect and the iconic, historic, Multnomah falls lodge,” said Lt. Rich Tyler with the State Fire Marshall’s Office.
Tracy Weaver with the US Forest Service said the Gorge is still the beautiful place Oregonians know and love.
“People need to recognize (the Gorge) is still going to be a beautiful place,” she said. “The fire did not burn every tree and every green plant in its path.”
There is damage, though, and Weaver said people need to be patient, because it will be a while before the trails are safe and open again.
Oregon Fire Marshal incident commander Ian Yocum said firefighters lost one residential structure and 4 outbuildings Tuesday, but crews managed to save countless others.
On Wednesday, multiple fire agencies continued to surround Multnomah Falls and the Lodge, neither of which have received any damage thanks to the round-the-clock attention from firefighters.
According to Gov. Kate Brown, crews are moving from a defense posture to an offensive one.
Officials estimate the fire will be contained Sept. 30, according to InciWeb.
The Hood River Sheriff’s Office decided to close all of the Hood River Forestland, roads and trails to recreation due to the extreme fire danger.
I-84 and the Historic Columbia River Highway are still closed and will be until further notice. Kimberly Dinwittie with the Oregon Department of Transportation said there are 1,500-2,000 damaged trees that are in danger of falling into the roadway on I-84. Crews are working on a plan to clear them out and figure out when it can reopen.
Hundreds of people are staying in shelters in Skamania County and Gresham after they were forced to evacuate from their homes on Monday and Tuesday.
There are 602 personnel fighting the Eagle Creek Fire, including 7 crews, 9 helicopters, 88 engines, 2 dozers, 21 water tenders and 20 structural OSFM task forces.