Hikers reunite with families after being trapped by Eagle Creek - KPTV - FOX 12

Hikers reunite with families after being trapped by Eagle Creek Fire

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EAGLE CREEK, OR (KPTV) -

Hours upon hours of uncertainty among parents and loved ones came to an end Sunday afternoon after three busloads of rescued hikers were dropped off at Eagle Creek.

Plumes of black smoke disappeared into the once-blue sky overhead in Cascade Locks. The fire blaze was billowing Sunday afternoon.

“We’ve had fires and stuff like this but never of this magnitude,” said Destiny Lumby, who was on standby for evacuation in Cascade Locks. “You can actually see the flames… it’s pretty scary.”

The nightmare started Saturday afternoon. 

Flames on one of the most popular hiking trails at the Columbia River Gorge were unexpected for hikers. And Saturday night became sheer uncertainty for some loved ones when they didn’t hear from family.

“We figured out all these hikers had been trapped in,” Stephen Utter said Sunday, as he waited for his 17-year-old brother Kenneth at Eagle Creek.

Authorities had set up a meeting place there for family to wait for hikers to return by bus. 

His mother, Kirsten Utter, said Kenneth went hiking with nine other teens on Saturday.

She says Kenneth texted her around 5 p.m. to let her know Eagle Creek Trail was blocked by fire. 

“And that was the last we heard from him,” she said.

The group of teenagers was among 153 other hikers who were waiting to be rescued Sunday morning after being forced to find shelter on the trail overnight.

“I prayed about it and I felt good and I knew he was going to be safe,” said Stephen Utter.

Loved ones gathered at Eagle Creek waiting for a glimpse of the first bus with rescued hikers, to see if their family would be on it.

Kirsten Utter and her family waited for Kenneth and his nine friends, but they never walked off of the bus.

Thirty minutes later, the second bus of rescued hikers returned.

“I just want my baby,” said Kirsten Utter.

The group of teenagers was not on that bus either.

Two more hours went by, the third and final bus returned, and at last Kenneth was home.

He and his mom embraced after what was an exhausting night for both of them, they say.

“When stuff like that happens, you see the best in people and the leaders come out. Just be a leader and share and be kind. We had plenty of those people,” he said.

They were nine school friends Saturday and, overnight, became family.

Kenneth Utter says he’s excited to get his hands on some real food and a bed.

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