Eagle Creek Fire hard on Cascade Locks businesses, workers

Tables at Thunder Island Brewing Company in Cascade Locks sit empty, covered in a light layer of ash, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. The brewery's been closed since the Eagle Creek Fire started. (KATU Photo)

Smoke from the Eagle Creek Fire still blankets the small Columbia River Gorge community of Cascade Locks.

The fire has been burning since Sept. 2. The town's been under evacuation orders for several weeks and most businesses are closed.

The doors to Thunder Island Brewing Company have been closed too.

Dave Lipps, the co-owner of the brewery, told KATU News he will have to lay off his seasonal employees early.

"You want certainty, you want consistency in your job and unfortunately there's nothing any of us (at the brewery) can do," Lipps said.

The Oregon Employment Department helped employees of Cascade Locks apply for unemployment benefits. Officials told KATU News employees will receive back benefits due to the wildfire.

"We have some really panicked employees that are on the verge of being devastated by this horrific natural disaster," said Jeremy Bechtel, the general manager of Thunder Island Brewing Company.

Lipps said he tried to find work for the employees, but after several days of being closed, was unable to continue.

"You have a job, you know you're going to go to work, you want to work, but there's nothing to come to," he said.

Betchel says about five employees have found new work or plan to. He said another dozen seasonal employees will be laid off early.

"They were expecting to work through the first week of October and have been laid off."

Most businesses in Cascade Locks are closed. Betchel said if the fire continues to burn, that some may not rebound.

"These are businesses that really rely on the summer months. It's a possibility that some of us might not be able to stay open through the winter," he said.

Businesses in the town have started CascadeLocksStrong.com to help local establishments impacted by the fire. People can purchase gift cards for the stores and restaurants.

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