Eagle Creek Fire crews welcome rain: 'There's a level of excitement and relief'

Rain brings change for fire crews

HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- The arrival of roughly two inches of rain marked a major shift in the battle against the Eagle Creek Fire.

Several crews were released from the fire and evacuation orders across the Gorge were lifted.

On Monday afternoon, firefighters at the incident command base at the Hood River County Fairgrounds could be seen putting away miles of fire hose that were no longer needed.

“There’s a level of excitement and relief,” said fire information officer Lidia Soto of the rain. “We were also getting a lot of smoke here. So the air clearing out is good for us.”

As of last week, more than 900 people were operating out of the fire base. By the end of Tuesday, that number is expected to drop to around 100.

Management of the fire is being transitioned to a type-two team. The focus of crews would also be shifting from suppression to repair efforts, Soto said. Crews would be making repairs to landscapes near fire lines and drainage areas. Even with the recent rainfall, the more than 48,000-acre fire was listed as 32 percent contained on Monday evening.

Soto noted that some parts of the fire would continue to smolder as well.

“The public is still going to be able to see some smoke. A lot of stumps and stuff like that are going to be burning,” she said. “Even with that amount of rain, there’s still some areas where it won’t be able to penetrate.”

Work relating to the fire was far from over for ODOT crews, though. With the threat of landslides, crews were working to make sure areas along parts of I-84 were safe. Recent rains were complicating efforts. As of Monday evening, there was no immediate timeline as to when traffic on Eastbound lanes would resume.

"We will reopen it when we know it’s safe when we have a high degree of confidence that it can be safe,” said ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton. “With the new rain and the slide threat, it complicates the issue even more."

While the rain had prompted a flash flood watch for parts of the fire area, the moisture was still welcomed by crews and locals alike.

“It’s definitely a welcoming feeling to feel rain on the back of your neck,” said Casey Gatz, a natural resources planner with the US Forest Service and a Hood River resident. “For us locally, it was really nice to feel that and know that this phase of the Eagle Creek fire is ramping down, and life can get somewhat back to normal for us that live here.”

© 2017 KGW-TV


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