More trouble ahead for Eagle Creek Fire area

Many Gorge trails won't reopen until September 2018 due to damage

Damage from the Eagle Creek Fire means some trails in the Gorge may not open September 2018. (KOIN)
Damage from the Eagle Creek Fire means some trails in the Gorge may not open September 2018. (KOIN)

MULTNOMAH COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — Just over a month after the Eagle Creek Fire started, the damage assessment is getting started in the Columbia River Gorge.

A group called BAER — Burned Area Emergency Response — is looking at the short term damage and the long term affects on the area Oregonians know and love so much.

“What we’ve done is we’ve looked at where the highest hazard is and we’ve identified values at risk for instance, it could be this bridge,” engineering geologist Ryan Cole said.

The Eagle Creek Fire is still burning more than 48,000 acres. It’s 47% contained, but officials say it won’t be totally contained until the end of November.

Charred and downed trees, rocks and debris make the trails at the Oneonta Gorge dangerous and unpredictable.

“It is a huge hazard and a very big concern,” Cole said.

While the rainy season ahead will help put out the rest of the fire, it also opens the door to fresh dangers in the Gorge. The danger of flooding and rock slides means many of the trails won’t reopen until September 2018.

“Increased flooding is one thing but then if you add a debris flow or even the sediment entrainment — you know, getting sediment moving — you bulk those flood flows, and they become even more problematic,” BAER team member Liz Schnackenberg said.

As for the teenagers believed to be responsible for starting the fire on September 2, investigators say anyone hoping for justice needs to be patient.

“We want to assure that a thorough investigation is done and we’ll be working to ensure that the investigation is followed through to the end,” Sgt. Stephen Dangler with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said.

Complete coverage of the Eagle Creek Fire