Eagle Creek Fire growth stalled, containment at 7 percent - KPTV - FOX 12

Eagle Creek Fire growth stalled, containment at 7 percent

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TROUTDALE, OR (KPTV) -

During a Friday morning news conference, officials said the Eagle Creek Fire had not grown overnight and remained at seven percent contained.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the fire held at 33,382 acres. USFS spokesperson Traci Weaver said teams used a Chinook helicopter for bucket drops out of the Columbia River to cool down hotspots behind Cascade Locks Thursday, adding that she hoped aerial methods could again be used Friday, pending the weather.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office noted that burnout operations would continue Friday which will lead to more smoke but should better secure fire lines.

Fire crews will also spend part of the day removing brush from Forest Road 2030 around the Bull Run Watershed management area, as well as containing the spot fire that appeared in the tip of the area.

Weaver said the priorities for crews clearing spots around developed areas, highways and the Bull Run area, also noting that crews are trying to work fast to increase the level of containment before hot, dry weather returns next week.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said all evacuation levels remained in place in east Multnomah County. He also said deputies, along with officers from the Portland Police Bureau and the Oregon State Police, are actively patrolling the evacuated areas to keep them secure.

Reese also noted that deputies have been locating spot fires for fire crews, including ones overnight near Latourell and on Palmer Road. He also said the deputies found washouts on Palmer Road, a danger that he noted as one of the reasons that evacuations have not yet been lifted.

In Hood River County, increased fire activity led to the expansion of some areas in evacuation zones Friday. The new Level 1 area - where people should be ready for a possible evacuation - runs from Collins Road in Dee to I-84 and includes all areas west of Country Club south to Reed Road, then due south to Highway 281, continuing until Milepost 12.5 and then following the Middle Fork of the Hood River until it comes parallel with the south end of Collins Road. 

The Level 2 evacuation area - meaning "be set" to evacuate - on the northeast half of Cascade Locks is being extended east to Viento State Park, staying along the I-84 corridor and including the whole area of Wyeth. The national forest areas surrounding Lost Lake are also under a Level 2 notice. 

Oregon Department of Transportation's Ryan Winchimer noted that crews have been clearings rocks and trees from roadways. Inspectors said they have not found any significant structural damage to things like bridges and tunnels on Interstate 84, though there are still thousands of trees burning along the highway that could fall and create hazards that would prevent the interstate from being opened.

Winchimer added that crews also have an uphill climb to tackle clearing the other state roads in the affected areas, noting that the cleanup on the Historic Columbia River Highway could keep it closed, “for quite some time.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is starting to allow commercial traffic through the Columbia River on a case-by-case basis, but Lt. Cmdr. Laura Springer asked that recreational boaters still try to give crews a wide birth as aerial crews are performing bucket drops in the river.

The response to the fire, which is currently seen as the top priority wildfire in the country, will be taken over by a federal team starting at 6 a.m. Saturday. The new head of the Forest Service, Tony Tooke, will be onsite then as well with state and federal officials, including Senator Ron Wyden and Governor Kate Brown.

Wyden said that federal funds were in place to for the response to the Eagle Creek Fire, but added that he still feels that fire prevention funding is being shortchanged.

“What happens is you may save some money today but you’re going spend a whole lot more down the road when fires that would have been smaller become infernos,” Wyden said.

Weaver also asked for the public’s patience with the recovery, noting that while many people want to try to get back into the area to help with the cleanup, teams need to first make sure the trails are safe and secure, to best make sure that “good intent also ends up in good results.”

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