Gov. Brown meets with people hit hard by Eagle Creek Fire in Gor - KPTV - FOX 12

Gov. Brown meets with people hit hard by Eagle Creek Fire in Gorge

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Gov. Kate Brown (center) meeting with people in Cascade Locks Friday. Gov. Kate Brown (center) meeting with people in Cascade Locks Friday.
The group gathered for the listening session in Cascade Locks Friday. The group gathered for the listening session in Cascade Locks Friday.
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR (KPTV) -

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visited the Gorge on Friday, meeting with business owners and community members affected by the Eagle Creek Fire.

She began her day in Cascade Locks, where several people shared their own stories of lost revenue, lost tourism and lost paychecks.

“I was there the day the fire started, I actually drove by when it was happening,” said a representative of Sedition Brewing Co. in The Dalles. “I knew that very moment: this is going to be ugly.”

People were out of work for weeks in Cascade Locks as the fire prompted evacuations and the closure of I-84.

“We had to close our doors for two weeks during what should have been the busiest time of the year,” said one of the owners of Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks.

Even now, some people still haven’t returned to work.

At Multnomah Lodge alone, 70 employees have been laid off.

Jill Buck, the co-owner of the Multnomah Lodge Company, told FOX 12 there are upward of 100 employees there during the busy summer months; a number that tapers down to a smaller year-round crew.

But the lodge – and the exit from the freeway just leading to Multnomah Falls – remain closed almost a month after the Eagle Creek Fire started.

“Our amazing, loyal employees do not have a paycheck, and we have no clear answers to give them as to when they will have a job back. We have no opening date for them,” Buck told the governor. “Today I ask the government if they can continue to get unemployment. It’s not enough, but it will help keep food on the table.”

Elizabeth Zerfing also shared her story with Brown.

Her husband is a volunteer firefighter who helped rescue the roughly 140 hikers stranded on the day the fire started.

But his business is being a fishing guide.

Unfortunately, the fire burned through his peak season and business dried up.

“He lost $10,000-plus dollars in the few weeks that everything happened,” Zerfing told Brown. “This is when we make our money for the household to last us the rest of the year.”

Brown announced Friday she’s creating a recovery council to help guide the efforts as state agencies come together with people on the ground.

The council will have two main jobs: First, assessing the economic damage in the gorge and prioritizing needs, and second, identifying and deploying state resources to help in those areas as quickly as possible.

 “It’s going to take a while to fully understand the impact of this fire season,” Governor Brown told the crowd. “The economic recovery and the healing are not going to happen overnight, but I want you to know we are committed to helping you all get back on track and providing you with the tools and resources you need for recovery.”

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