Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
U.S. Forest Service
Hood River, OR 97031
Link: Eagle Creek Fire Update 10/24/17 with Loretta Duke, Incident Commander
Hi I’m Loretta Duke. I’m currently the Eagle Creek IC and the last Eagle Creek IC in a long line of them. You know, the fire area, there isn’t a lot of burning going on, there’s some interior burning. There’s a lot of gravity hazards out there. Because it is such a steep hillside we regularly have debris flows that happen even before this fire happened. All the rock was being held together with moss and now that the moss isn’t there, that stuff is sliding down- even without rainfall, it’s sliding down constantly. Just driving through there, one of the crew vehicles last week damaged two tires, one of them completely flat. And the other one scarred the sidewall. Then the hazard trees, a lot of those trees are on a very steep slope and many of them are shallow rooted. They burned deep into the soil and those trees just fall over. And some of them fall over and because it’s on such a steep slope they shoot down like a torpedo.
Nobody’s been on the trails yet in those steep areas because it is so dangerous right now. We haven’t even put firefighters in those areas. If we had a search and rescue in there, the Forest Service doesn’t have jurisdiction but the counties do, and a typical search and rescue, say for Multnomah County means they would mobilize a volunteer organization. So here are people who don’t get paid to do this regularly. They would be risking their lives trying to get somebody out of a dangerous situation that they got themselves into. We have the crag rats out in this area. They are the oldest volunteer search and rescue organization. They have performed many rescues in the Gorge. They were part of the initial rescue for the 150 people that were caught on the uphill side of the fire when it started.
The end state is pretty much is, let’s take care of the immediate threat to some of the infrastructure that still exists, like around the spring boxes and the facilities because certainly during our wonderful winter events when we have snow and wind and ice we don’t want our infrastructure further damaged. That’s why we’re looking at trying to take care of those in the immediate future. But other than that, I don’t think we’re going to take any more suppression action at this point. We have had what can be considered a season ending event, which for a west side forest is a half of inch of rain over the course of three days. And duration is much more important than amount of rain.