THE DALLES, Ore. -- Businesses in The Dalles have reported continued losses of revenue connected to the Eagle Creek Fire and the resulting closure of Interstate 84 East.
In downtown The Dalles on Tuesday, buildings reflected the sun as if to invite people to shop, but the streets were nearly empty.
“Having 84 cut off was like an artery being severed off,” said Steve Light, owner of Freebridge Brewery.
Light said he’d lost about 70 percent of his business since the Eagle Creek Fire. He recently cut his payroll to reflect the loss of business, choosing to close his brewery on Tuesdays for the time being.
Aaron Lee owns nearby Sedition Brewery, and also experienced a major hit.
“The day the fire started it was like a dam went up and about 80 percent of our business stopped that day,” said Lee.
Sedition opened almost a year ago, and according to Lee, it had just started rebounding from a winter decimated by snow.
“For us, we've exhausted almost all our resources at this point that we had saved up,” said Lee.
Jill McDonald owns Urban Paper, a boutique specializing in scrapbook materials, party supplies and holiday décor. She said her business was down 40 percent from this time last year, and she was dreading the long-term repercussions.
“My biggest worry is that people won't come back,” said McDonald. “They'll establish new patterns and then we will have permanently lost some business.”
On top of everything, many businesses faced added freight costs due to delivery trucks needing to detour around I-84. Wasco County Commissioner Rod Runyon said a $200 bill for a waste management can triple if the garbage truck has to detour around the mountain.
“It's sad that the forest got burned,” said Runyon, “but the effects of that and what it does to the economy, not just the ecology are extremely important."
Even in dark times, there was still hope in The Dalles, and the promise of more for those willing to make the trip east, even via detour.
“We still have the doors open,” said Light. “We're serving beer, producing food. Please come to The Dalles.”