HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- An estimated 615 people filled the Hood River High School gym Thursday night, anxious to learn more about how the Eagle Creek Fire might affect them.
“What dangers do we need to watch out for and what's going on?” Dottie Gilberston, a 62-year resident of Hood River asked. “The reality is, it could happen here."
Many wondered what would happen to their homes, their land and their crops should the fire spread east.
“I want to know how close this fire is to Hood River and what we need to do to be prepared,” said Gilbertson.
Questions fire officials felt were important enough to answer in person, which is why they held Thursday’s meeting.
“You can see the pictures or hear it on the radio or read it on social media, but there's nothing like having a face-to-face conversation with the people who are managing this fire,” said Rich Tyler of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. “We're all going to get through this together by sticking together.”
The 33,000-acre Eagle Creek Fire was 7 percent contained Thursday night. It was also designated the country’s top priority wildfire.
Despite hope for cooling temperatures and even the chance of rain, fire officials said an untimely wind could shift the fire east, possibly into Hood River.
“There is some worry,” said Rachel Pawlitz of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. “I'm definitely watching very closely what's going to happen next.”
Besides working for the U.S. Forest Service, Pawlitz lives in Hood River. For her, Thursday’s meeting was personal.
“You know we’re all having these ups and downs and uncertainties about what's going to happen next,” Pawlitz said.
If there was one certainty the gorge, Gilbertson had it pegged.
“The firefighters…they’re really fighting this ‘fire war’ and putting their lives on the line."
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