Rain knocks down Eagle Creek Fire, but creates risk for landslid - KPTV - FOX 12

Rain knocks down Eagle Creek Fire, but creates risk for landslides in Gorge

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It’s a good-news, not-so-good-news scenario in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Eagle Creek Fire has burned nearly 50,000 acres over the last two weeks, but now growth is expected to slow considerably with heavy rain the forecast over the next few days.

However, that desperately needed rain is also posing a problem: In the areas where the underbrush has been burned away the already unstable hillsides could give way as the rain – now and through the winter – starts to saturate the ground.

An ODOT spokesperson told FOX 12 the areas most at risk are drainages like Oneonta Creek, Eagle Creek and Herman Creek.

Crews will be looking at how to protect these areas – especially the hillsides above I-84 – with measures that may include mesh screens, fencing or other preventive barriers.

But all that work takes time.

“We knew we were going to have to worry about landslides, mudslides and everything, we just didn’t think it was going to be this soon,” said Cascade Locks resident Rachel Klapprich.

Klapprich and her family were evacuated from their hillside home for 13 days.

We first met her on Sept. 3, just hours after she was forced to leave. An officer had come to her door at 4 a.m. telling them they had half an hour to get out.

In the end, Klapprich said the fire came within one-eighth of a mile of her home.

Fire crews back burned the woods on her property to protect her home, and even used water from her swimming pool to fight the flames.

She’s grateful for the rain – and the hard work of the firefighters who saved her home and countless others.

“It was emotional, it was just awesome,” she said of being allowed back home on Saturday. “We were pretty sure we weren’t going to have a house. Those firefighters are amazing. Absolutely amazing, we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Unfortunately, her home is on the site of a decades-old landslide that brought mounds of rocks through the woods on the back of her property.

She said fire crews dug a drainage ditch across the road leading to her home on Saturday, hoping to funnel the rainwater off the hillside.

She hopes she doesn’t have to deal with a new landslide, but it’s nothing she can control.

For now, her family is just settling back in to the home they love, grateful it’s still here.

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