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Dangerous hazards prevent Multnomah Falls Lodge and historic highway from opening

A machine inside the Multnomah Falls Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 removes the smell of smoke after the Eagle Creek fire in September. (KATU Photo)

With fall weather here and winter weather on the way, the threat of damage from the Eagle Creek Fire looms.

Right now there's no estimate on when the Multnomah Falls Lodge, the trails, and the Historic Columbia River Highway will reopen.

"When you first come up and open up the door, yep, smells very, very smoky,” Rick Buck, the president of the Multnomah Falls Co., said.

Rick Buck is the president of the family business that runs the shops at the lodge. Although firefighters saved it, they couldn't do anything about the smoke damage.

Inside, crews are scrubbing the building from top to bottom, and using machines to clear the smell. Outside, the U.S. Forest Service is figuring out what it needs to do to get the area reopened.

"There are still a lot of hazards from trees coming down and for rocks coming down," Lidiana Soto, with the U.S. Forest Service, said.

The Burned Area Emergency Response team suggested using barriers to make the area safer for visitors. The kind of barriers that’ll be used is still being worked out.

In addition to all the work being done inside the Multnomah Falls Lodge, the work on the Columbia River Highway is ongoing. The hillsides are saturated from the weekend storms, causing a few minor landslides.

"We had four small slides that were maybe a full lane, maybe a half a lane, not very much,” Don Hamilton, the ODOT spokesperson, said.

The slides are not huge, but they're a clear sign that there's a reason this road is closed.

“We have to make sure that all these threats are done with before we can get the road open again,” Hamilton said.

As Hamilton explained the reason for the continued closures, a cyclist biked right by him, on the closed highway.

Hamilton was speechless, but KATU photographer, Bob Foster, called the cyclist out.

“You know the road's closed, right?” Foster said.

“Yup,” the cyclist responded, biking away.

The tone of the conversation with ODOT immediately changed. These closures are not suggestions, they're serious warnings.

"It's dangerous," Hamilton said. "These roads are not safe around in here because slides are still taking place. It's dangerous to see bicyclists, to see hikers, to see cars. "

The closures are for the safety of the people. Although it can be an inconvenience at times, following the rules is important, not only so crews can do their work, but so everyone can stay safe.

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