About 150 hikers who were stranded overnight along the Eagle Creek Trail have been rescued.
Officials say the 153 hikers spent Saturday night in the Columbia River Gorge after they were trapped behind fire lines. On Sunday morning, they hiked to Wahtum Lake, where buses took them to the Cascade Salmon Hatchery in Cascade Locks so they could be reunited with loved ones.
At about 10:30 a.m. Sunday, officials said a bus with the first group of about 52 people left Wahtum Lake headed for Cascade Locks, followed by a second group on another bus about an hour later. Just before 1:30 p.m., the bus with the third and final group of rescued hikers was on its way to the hatchery.
The Hood River County Sheriff's Office said all hikers were accounted for. One hiker was taken to the hospital for issues related to exhaustion and dehydration.
Officials believe the blaze on the Eagle Creek Trail started around 4 p.m. Saturday, but it had grown to about 3,000 acres by 11 a.m. Sunday.
While the fire is still under investigation, officials said it was most likely caused by humans.
An Oregon National Guard Blackhawk helicopter helped evacuate some people trapped behind flames Saturday evening, airlifting three individuals that were not located on the trail.
Another 25 people spent their Saturday night hiking out of the area through a closed trail entrance accompanied by U.S. Forest Service personnel.
Some hikers and campers were able to escape the area before the fire exploded in size.
Hiker Cameron Wong told FOX 12 that he with friends on their way back from Punch Bowl Falls when they looked over a ledge and saw trees on fire.
"We started smelling smoke and felt heat, so we looked around, heard crackling, looked down the rail and right below there was a fire that jumped up on the trail just a few minutes later," he said. “There were kids there screaming. The fire had jumped on the trail and it was burning all around the rail...and then we ran out of there."
Wong said his group ran to try to get away from the blaze but that the hike was narrow and ran along a ledge.
"Smoke was in our eyes. We couldn't really see much, we were kind of shimmying along the edge," he said. “If we had left maybe five minutes later we would have been caught in the fire or trapped there."
All of Eagle Creek Trail remains closed, and crews said that their current plan is to fight the fire using aerial methods due to the difficulty accessing the trails.
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