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Last updated Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. For the latest updates on the fire, click here.
TROUTDALE, Ore. -- Effective immediately, all Eagle Creek Fire evacuation orders in Multnomah County have been lifted, the sheriff's office announced Monday afternoon.
Access to the Dodson, Warrendale, Bridal Veil, and Latourell is limited to residents only, due to road closures on both the Historic Columbia Highway and eastbound Interstate 84. Residents are asked to report to the Troutdale Police Community Center for instructions and permits to access closed roadways.
"A combination of successful firefighting efforts and recent rains has allowed fire crews to continue making progress on the fire lines along the west side of the Eagle Creek Fire," said Lt. Chad Gaidos.
Evacuation notices in the Hood River Valley have also been lifted. Level 1 notices remain in place for the Cascade Locks area, as well as Wyeth and Viento, due to the flash flood advisory.
The Breitenbush Hot Springs and Breitenbush Summer Homes will remain at a level 3 (Go!) evacuation level because of the risk of thunder and lightning.
The rain may be helping crews fighting the wildfire, but the recent rain could also present new challenges, including an increased chance of landslides.
The latest KGW forecast says Portland and the Columbia Gorge could receive between 1 and 2 inches of rain accumulation by the middle of this week.
A spokesman with the U.S. Geological Survey said the burn areas are highly susceptible to landslides. "It doesn't mean it's going to happen but the likelihood does increase," he said.
Firefighters focused over the weekend on preparing for the rain, fortifying fire lines, removing unneeded equipment and building water bars to reduce erosion along the fire lines.
Nearby residents also said they were glad to see the rain move in. “The rain is taking the smoke out. So that’s cool," said neighbor Leon Alec. "That feels way better because you can breathe.”
Watch: Time lapse of fire growth
The fire, which authorities believe was started by a 15-year-old boy playing with a firework on Sept. 2, has grown to 48,387 acres but was 32 percent contained as of Monday.
The Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office demobilized Sunday from the Eagle Creek Fire and crews will continue to be pulled from the fire as no new fire growth is expected because of the weather.
Westbound Interstate 84 reopened Saturday morning after it was temporarily closed for about five hours between Troutdale and Hood River for tree removal. Westbound lanes initially reopened Thursday after being closed since Sept. 4.
Eastbound lanes remain closed and Oregon Department of Transportation officials offered no timetable for when those lanes may reopen.
Watch: Tour of closed I-84
The Historic Columbia River Highway is also still closed and has no schedule to reopen. ODOT said rocks and trees are still falling onto the highway and it is not safe for travel.
On the Washington side of the gorge, trucks over 10,000 pounds are prohibited from driving between Washougal and Dallesport on State Route 14 due to the fire. The ban on large trucks will remain in place until I-84 is open.
The Archer Mountain Fire, which started in Washington when the Eagle Creek Fire jumped the Columbia River, is 100 percent contained, fire officials said.
There were no changes to evacuation orders on Saturday. The most recent evacuation notices in Multnomah County came on Friday when all Level 3 evacuation orders were downgraded to Level 2. Some areas of Hood River remain under Level 3 evacuations that were put into place Thursday after fire activity increased on the east end Wednesday night.
Four houses have been destroyed by the Eagle Creek Fire. People lived year-round in one of the houses. The other three houses were part-time residences.
People who evacuated their homes were staying in two temporary shelters, at the Harvest Christian Church Troutdale and at the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, Washington.
Sen. Ron Wyden has said on several occasions he helped secure funding for the Eagle Creek Fire fight in Washington, D.C., but stressed that more money to pay for wildfire prevention was needed.
"It’s clear that fire has hit our state like a wrecking ball,” Wyden said.
Photos: Fire in Gorge
The fire is the top wildfire priority in the country, according to fire officials. One third of all acres burning in the West are in Oregon, Wyden said.
U.S Forest Service officials said the National Forest Foundation has started an Eagle Creek Fire restoration fund.
The fire has reached the outer boundary of the Bull Run Watershed, but has not approached any infrastructure or the drinking water reservoirs, according to the Portland Water Bureau. Water from Bull Run serves more than 950,000 people in the Portland metro area. The water bureau is prepared to switch to its secondary water supply if needed.
Level 3 evacuations have forced hundreds of people from their homes since the fire started.
Multnomah County downgraded all Level 3 evacuations to Level 2 on Friday, meaning residents who had been evacuated can return to their homes but they should be ready to leave again on a moment's notice.
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office asked residents who had been evacuated to visit the Corbett Community Church for re-entry instructions. Household pets are welcome back, the sheriff's office said, but livestock should not return quite yet.
Some areas in Hood River County remain under Level 3 evacuation orders.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said some evacuees had expressed concerns about looting in their homes. Reese said there was a large police presence at all hours in areas under Level 3 evacuation orders. Anyone who sees any looting should call police.
'The gorge still looks like the gorge'
The historic Multnomah Falls Lodge, built in 1925, was threatened by the fire, but structural firefighters worked to keep the fire away from it. Several structural engines and an aerial ladders truck worked with water tenders to keep the lodge wetted down.
"The fire crews, they're unbelievable," said Cascade Locks Mayor Tom Cramblett. "They're tough, they're into it. They're going to do all they can to not lose one house. One house to them is a total loss."
Last week, Lt. Damon Simmons, a spokesman with the State Fire Marshal's Office also said he has driven through the gorge, and though he said it is still a dangerous drive at this time, the forest remains intact.
"The gorge still looks like the gorge," he said. "It's not a wasteland."
Oregon State Police said the person suspected of starting the Eagle Creek Fire is a 15-year-old Vancouver boy. They said they believe the teen and others were using fireworks near the Eagle Creek Trail.
No arrests have been made. OSP is asking for more tips from witnesses who may have seen the boys that day.
One witness, Kevin Marnell, told KGW he heard a firework go off when he was hiking the trail Saturday. He also sent a video to KGW of officers speaking with a group of teenagers on Saturday night near the trailhead.
Another witness, Liz FitzGerald, told KGW that she saw young hikers laugh as they threw a firecracker into the Eagle Creek Canyon.
The investigation into the cause of the fire is being conducted by the Oregon State Police, U.S. Forest Service, Hood River Sheriff's Office, Hood River District Attorney's Office and fire personnel.
More than 150 hikers were forced to spend the night in the mountains east of Portland made it down the trail to safety on Sept. 3.
Deputy Joel Ives said all of the hikers were accounted for. One hiker was taken out by ambulance for exhaustion and dehydration.
Many of the hikers had gone up the Eagle Creek Trail on Sept. 2 to swim at the popular waterfalls and pools when the fire broke out below them at around 4:30 p.m.
The hikers found themselves trapped between the new Eagle Creek Fire and the older Indian Creek Fire, which had been burning to the south since July 4. Firefighters have not been able to work on the fire directly due to steep, unsafe conditions.
The only way to get the hikers out was through a longer, more difficult 14-mile route. With daylight fading on Saturday night, officials told them spend the night near Tunnel Falls. Mountain Wave Search & Rescue dropped supplies to the hikers.
Sky 8 video: Fire burns in Columbia River Gorge
Mountain Wave Search & Rescue president Russ Gubele said search and rescue teams headed up the second trail the next morning and led the hikers out the 14 miles toward Wahtum Lake.
The first group made it out by about 10:30 a.m. and the last group by about 1:30 p.m.
"It's horribly smoky," Gubele said. "Ash is coming down. It's like a Mount Saint Helens eruption all over again."
Important phone numbers
- Inciweb general info about fire: 541-392-1631
- Hood River County evacuation and shelter information: 541-387-6941 (English); 541-387-6942 (Spanish)
- Hood River County donation and volunteer information: 541-387-6911 (English); 541-387-7080 (Spanish)
- Multnomah County Emergency Evacuation info: 503-823-2323
- Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EagleCreekandIndianCreekFires2017/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/eaglecreekfire
- Oregon Smoke Information: https://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/
- Multnomah County Sheriff Flash Alert: https://www.flashalert.net/id/MCSO
- Hood River County Sheriff: http://www.hoodriversheriff.com/news/breaking-news/
- Road Closures: https://tripcheck.com
- Firewise Information: http://www.firewise.org/
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