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Eagle Creek fire explodes, forces evacuations, I-84 closed, Multnomah Falls threatened

Photo of the Eagle Creek Fire taken from the Washington side of the Bonneville Dam area on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. (Photo by Tristan Fortsch)

The Eagle Creek Fire raging in the Columbia River Gorge exploded Monday night, forcing hundreds out of their homes, closing down a major portion of Interstate 84, and threatening an Oregon treasure: Multnomah Falls.

The human-caused fire grew from 3,200 acres early Monday to 4,800 acres by the end of the day. It forced the Oregon Department of Transportation to close Interstate 84 in both directions between Hood River and Troutdale. Detours were put into effect.

Early Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service said it had received multiple reports that a fire is now burning on the Washington side of the Columbia River at Franz Lake Road. And Skamania County Fire District No. 5 in Washington said a new fire is burning on a ridge on Archer Mountain, just across the river from the Eagle Creek fire. It is burning about 10 acres. Skamania County issued a Level 3 evacuation notice for Archer Mountain Road.

Meanwhile, just before 11 p.m., the National Weather Service said the fire was about two miles from Oregon’s iconic Multnomah Falls and moving toward it. NWS expected the flames to reach its ridges within an hour. Gresham firefighters were sent to protect the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge.

A red glow beyond the ridge from the fire could be seen in a photograph tweeted by the Gresham Fire Department.

And as the flames crept closer to homes and advanced to the west, weather forecasters saw no immediate relief for the firefighting effort.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office issued Level 3 (Go!) evacuations for a host of areas in East County. Here is the latest evacuation list:

• Warrendale - Level 3 GO!

• Dodson - Level 3 GO!

• Larch Mountain - Level 3 GO!

• Latourell - Level 3 GO!

• Bridal Veil - Level 3 GO!

• East Corbett (Larch Mtn Rd and East) - Level 3 Go.

• Corbett - Level 2 Get Ready

• Springdale - Level 2 Get Ready

Other Level 3 evacuations:

• Dodson

• Warrendale

• Larch Mountain Road (all 14 miles)

• Haines Road

• Alex Barr Road

• Thompson Mill Road

• Brower Road

• Toll Road

• Palmer Mill Road

• Archer Mountain Road

Additionally, the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office has issued Level 3 evacuations south of Interstate 84 for the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees at the Skamania County Fairgrounds. It has also set up a shelter at Mt. Hood Community College.

Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Chad Gaidos said teams of deputies and search and rescue members have been going door to door to warn people in the affected areas. As of late Monday night, it had notified about 60 people in the Warrendale and Dodson areas to evacuate.

School Closures

The Corbett School District and Cascade Locks Elementary School in the Hood River County School District will be closed Tuesday because of the fire danger.

See more closures here.

Explosive Fire

Traci Weaver, a fire spokeswoman, told KATU late Monday night the fire was being pushed along by 30 mph winds.

“We’re seeing explosive growth to the west,” she said.

Gaidos said the fire was also moving to the south.

KATU Meteorologist Dave Salesky said the winds will continue to be a problem for this fire until at least Tuesday afternoon.

“The wind is the driving force behind these embers and that smoke and ash that’s moving through much of the metropolitan area,” he said.

Winds are expected to reverse direction by Wednesday afternoon. While that will help clear the smoke and ash from the Portland-metro area, it’ll send smoke back into the Gorge and possibly move the fire back toward Cascade Locks.

The area, including the Portland-Metro area is under a Fire Weather Warning until 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Officials said so far no structures have burned.

Evacuations at Cascade Locks

Cascade Locks was one of the first communities to start evacuating, and most of it is now evacuated. Level 3 orders are in effect along the Columbia River, and all homes north of Wa Na Pa are now under a Level 2 evacuation warning.

The fire is just a quarter of a mile from the town.

On Monday, a helicopter circled over Robert Talbert’s home. His home, south of I-84 and up against the forest, is under a Level 3 evacuation.

“(At) 2:15 in the morning, the police show up, knock, knock, knock, they got that knock,” he said.

His neighbors evacuated and left the sprinklers going on their roof.

Across town north of Wa Na Pa Street, neighbors watched and waited. Arminda Myhill packed her car and was ready to join others across the river at the Red Cross shelter near Stevenson.

Ash-falls in the Portland-metro Area

Ash from the fire rained down through the metro area Monday night. People from Camas, Vancouver, Washougal and Beaverton reported ash falling in their area. Several sent pictures to the KATU Newsroom of the ash on their cars.

The National Weather Service has an air quality alert in place until at least 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Authorities also reminded residents not to call 911 to ask about the smoke or ash. Only call if there’s an emergency.

Other Closures/Detours

The Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks is closed.

ODOT says trucks should use U.S. 26 as an alternate route. Other options include using Highway 35. It runs south from Hood River toward Mount Hood.

On the Washington side, State Route 14 is open.

The fire started Saturday afternoon, and officials said they believe it was sparked by fireworks. Oregon State Police are investigating.

Watch our 11 p.m. Newscast Coverage of the Fire:


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