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'Cascade Locks strong': Community trying to bounce back one year after Eagle Creek Fire

"We need to celebrate [that] we're solid, we're strong, and we're coming back," said Sally Drew, coordinator for the Cascade Locks Farmers Market.

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. — It has been one year since the Eagle Creek Fire scorched more than 48,000 acres, closed popular hiking trails and forced evacuations. It left Cascade Locks looking like a ghost town and also meant a steep decline of tourists in an area reliant on tourism dollars.

One year later and a number of businesses in the Gorge are still fighting an uphill battle.

“We saw the smoke billowing up and we thought, 'What is going on?' " said Sally Drew, the Cascade Locks Farmers Market Coordinator.

That's how Drew remembers the first time she saw the Eagle Creek Fire.

“Hard to put into words, there was so much emotion,” she said.

Drew said a lot of businesses in town are still struggling to recover. KGW spoke with employees at other businesses who say while there have been more tourists this year than last, numbers are still down.

But tourists are coming. Joan Dziuk, who is from Portland, decided to take a trip with her friend Judy Baker. They say the idea of supporting the Cascade Locks community played a big role in coming out to spend their time and money in the Gorge.

As for the Vancouver teen who started the fire, a judge ordered him to pay $36.6 million in restitution. After 10 years, a judge can grant full or partial payment if he's complied with all his other orders.

“This is something he will never forget either whether he drives through here or not,” Baker said.

“I'm sure this young man is sorry,” Drew said.

Now, the communities in the Gorge are focused on forging ahead.

“We are celebrating that we are Cascade Locks strong,” said Drew.

She said it was after the Eagle Creek Fire that the community really came together. That’s when she decided to start up the farmers market. This is its first year.

“We’ve arisen from the ashes, the farmers market has,” Drew said.

She said the Cascade Locks Farmers Market runs every first and third Sunday, through the third weekend of October.

Celebrations planned on the one-year marker, include a barbeque, live band, and a showing of an Eagle Creek Fire documentary at the Cascade Locks Ale House around 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

“We kinda just pulled this together and just said, 'Hey, the anniversary's here, we need to celebrate [that] we're solid, we're strong, and we're coming back,' " Drew said.

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