FIREFIGHTER RECOGNITION

(KPTV image)

COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE – Firefighters from around the Gorge were honored for their service during the Eagle Creek Fire at a ceremony in Stevenson, WA today.

The fire, which was sparked by a teenager lighting fireworks last September, burned more than 48,000 acres. Burning the beauty cherished by so many visitors from Portland and around the world.

“It was charred, it was burnt quite literally,” Alec Mancino of Portland said, as he enjoyed a fall hike at Multnomah Falls with his girlfriend and dog. “It [was] almost depressing in a sense that you couldn’t come here and visit something I make an act to do at least once a year.”

The Multnomah Falls Lodge Visitor Center and the iconic Benson Bridge have since been reopened, but many roads and trails nearby remain closed for restoration and repairs.

With thousands of acres left with fire-scarred trees, the aftermath is a symbol of the challenge firefighters faced.

“None of us have ever been through anything this big before,” Cascade Locks Fire Chief Jessica Bennett said.

Bennett said her department responded to the very first 911 call that reported the fire.

On Saturday, just over 1 year later, firefighters from Cascade Locks and other departments from around the area were honored for their service at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum.

“This is just kind of a way of inviting the local community to come and say thank you,” organizer Robert Peterson said.

Bennett said the fire left behind a better awareness as to how many people it can take to respond to emergencies.

“Its really opened the community’s eyes to what we do, and how shorthanded we really are,” Bennett said.

Meantime, back across the river at the falls, eyes were focused on the ferocious flow. Some who visit here may not even know about the fire and the toll it took on emergency responders. But, as our FOX 12 crew learned just by asking around the lower viewing platform, many certainly do.

“I think I can speak for all of Oregon, we appreciate everything you did, every single day,” Mancino said. “So people like me, and fellow civilians can come here with their families and their dogs and see this and be a part of it.”

Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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