Tall timber contributed to explosive fire behavior Tuesday as the Eagle Creek and Indian Creek fires merged to cover an estimated 32,000 acres, according to a report by Oregon Public Broadcasting this morning.
The fire spread approximately 15 miles Sept. 5 and overnight reached downstream of Multnomah Falls.
An InciWeb posting Tuesay night said heavy smoke continues to blanket the region, with visibility at Columbia Gorge Regional Airport/The Dalles Municipal Airport weather station reduced to one mile Tuesday afternoon.
Visibility Wednesday morning was 1.75 miles, with haze and overcast skies.
Winds are forecast to shift today, driving the smoke east toward The Dalles.
On Tuesday evening, all Hood River County forestland, forest roads, and forest trails were closed to all recreational use until further notice, due to the extreme risk of fire, fire danger, lack of resources to fight additional fires and in the interest of public safety. The closure was recommended by the county forest manager and approved by the county board of commissioners Tuesday evening. No use of county trails will be allowed by foot, bicycle, or any other means, the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office stated. Notices will begin to be posted today and the areas will be patrolled.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed the Columbia River overnight to all vessel traffic east of Portland because of wildfire activity.
A Coast Guard spokesperson said the closure affecting 20 miles of the river protected personnel and boats from potential hazards created by falling hot ash and firefighting aircraft landing on the water.
The section of the Columbia River was closed after the Captain of the Port deemed it unsafe for vessels to travel the river from Reed Island to the Bonneville Dam.
The Coast Guard said some vessel traffic was impacted and that the need for the closure would be re-evaluated today.
The historic Multnomah Falls Lodge, built in 1925, was successfully protected by Oregon State Fire Marshal’s structural firefighters, an InciWeb report said. A task force of structural engines and one aerial ladder truck worked in conjunction with a strike team of water tenders to keep the lodge wetted down during the fire storm of falling embers. Large trees nearby torched and fire crews used hose lines to protect the lodge from heat.
Ian Yocum, incident commander with the Oregon State Fire Marshal, said firefighters were successful in additional structure protection efforts Tuesday. “Firefighters had a good day out there. We lost one small residential structure and four outbuildings. We will continue to patrol and access structural protection needs.”
Interstate 84 remains closed from Troutdale to Hood River due to rocks, snags and other debris entering the roadway.
Oregon Department of Transportation will be working with the Unified Command team to determine when the highway will be safe to reopen.
SR-14 in Washington remains closed to all commercial motor vehicle traffic both east and west bound. An evacuation center has been set up on the Skamania County Fairgrounds, and is hosting more than 150 people, according to a report Tuesday by Mark Graves of The Oregonian/OregonLive.
The shelter has been open since 5 a.m. Sunday. Community volunteers started an animal shelter in a large barn at the fairgrounds, which is housing chickens, dogs, cats, rabbits, ducks and a turtle, Graves reported.
Authorities say a 15-year-old boy is the suspect in the fire, which was likely caused by fireworks. The Oregon State Police said in a statement Tuesday the teen from Vancouver, and others, may have been using fireworks on the Eagle Creek Trail.