Eagle Creek Fire now one of the top fire priorities in the U.S., considered 5% contained
Updated at 11:45 a.m.
CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. – Fire crews are hoping for a day of relatively calm weather Thursday as they continue to battle the Eagle Creek Fire, which is now considered the top fire priority in the nation.
The nearly 33,400-acre (52 square mile) fire is now considered 5 percent contained, according to Portland Fire & Rescue Lt. Damon Simmons.
"If we can get this weather to hold out I think we can make more solid progress through the day," Lt. Simmons said.
Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes because of the fire. There were no new evacuation notices issued overnight Wednesday. Officials have not put out a time frame for when people will be allowed to return home.
The Red Cross has set up two shelters to take in evacuees. Local animal rescue groups are helping to house pets and livestock moved out of the evacuation zones.
The evacuation areas remain the same as Wednesday.
Level 3 (Go!):
- Larch Mountain
- Bridal Veil
- Corbett (East of the 38700 block of Columbia River Highway - Level 3 GO!)
Level 2 (Be Set):
- Corbett/Springdale (West of 38700 block of the Columbia River Highway to the Sandy River)
Level 1 (Get Ready)
- Troutdale (East of 257th, North of Stark, West of the Sandy River)
Three homes were destroyed as of Thursday morning; one was a full-time residence but crews aren’t sure whether people lived in the other two houses. Firefighters said structural protection is a top priority.
The fire is also threatening several historical sites and natural landmarks in the Columbia River Gorge.
Wind from the west has helped clear out some of the haze covering the region for the past few days. Air quality lingers in the moderate to unhealthy range for parts of the upper Willamette Valley and Southwest Washington. You can check the current air quality conditions on the DEQ website and on the Washington Ecology Air Monitors site.
Oregon State Police said a 15-year-old from Vancouver, Wash. is suspected to have started the fire by tossing a firework from the Eagle Creek Trail. He has not been formally charged with causing the fire. Investigators are still asking for witnesses with video evidence to step forward.
Officers arrested a man in Troutdale on Wednesday night who is accused of taking gear from firefighters in an attempt to break into evacuated homes. State police officials reassured evacuees that law enforcement is working to make sure their property is safe.
There are currently 928 firefighters working to contain the Eagle Creek Wildfire. They are working Thursday to secure fire lines near Cascade Locks and Bridal Veil.
The Oregon Department of Transportation closed down Interstate 84, which is the primary east-west route on the Oregon side of the Gorge. Officials said that there is no estimated time on when the highway will reopen as they take down damaged trees that could pose a threat to drivers.
Other transportation, such as the Union Pacific line and Columbia River traffic is starting to move through the Gorge again.
The U.S. Coast Guard also plans to allow commercial vessels to travel down the Columbia River at night.