Eagle Creek Fire: Hood River wineries livelihoods at stake - KPTV - FOX 12

Eagle Creek Fire: Hood River wineries livelihoods at stake

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Smoke rising over the hills from the Cathedral Ridge Winery. Smoke rising over the hills from the Cathedral Ridge Winery.

The Eagle Creek Fire – now roughly 36,000 acres and only 13 percent contained – is affecting a lot of people up and down the Columbia River Gorge.

Not only are lives and homes at stake, so are countless livelihoods.

With I-84 shut down for more than a week, business owners said the biggest struggle is simply getting people through the door.

“The whole community from a business standpoint is kind of on its back because the roads are flat closed, and it’s a new experience when we treasure everyone who gets here,” said Robb Bell, the owner of Hood River’s Cathedral Ridge Winery. “So we’re having free tasting here at the winery to applaud those who make their way through the traffic and get here. It’s not dangerous getting here, it’s just hard, it just takes a while longer than it used to.”

Travelers from the Portland area either have to take SR-14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River and come across the bridge into Hood River, or travel around Mt. Hood on Highway 35 – adding considerable time to the trip.

Bell estimates business at the tasting room is down by 75 percent right now – and he’s not alone.

Steve Bickford, a co-owner at Hood River’s Mt. Hood Winery, agrees.

He says the closure of I-84 has had a huge impact on business, since people don’t want to spend the extra hour or hour and a half to get to Hood River.

Adding insult to injury, he says August, September and October are usually the busiest months for vineyard tourism.

Luckily, Bell and Bickford agree the business impact is expected to only be short term. The wildfire has not affected the grape themselves, or wine production.

Bell says the wet spring and hot summer we’ve had made for an excellent wine year. As long as winery owners are able to survive this lag in business with the interstate shut down, they should rebound just fine.

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