Gresham battalion chief: Job to save Multnomah Lodge personal

Fire Battalion Chief Jason McGowan speaks to KATU News Wednesday after he and his crew, along with a joint task force, worked to save Multnomah Falls Lodge. (KATU Photo)

It’s been tough for local firefighters fighting the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge as they worked to protect historic structures like the Multnomah Falls Lodge.

Crews worked overnight Monday to save it.

Gresham Fire Battalion Chief Jason McGowan’s crew was part of a task force that was there.

The lodge and its history was in their minds as the flames devoured trees around the lodge.

“I remember going up to the lodge as a kid,” McGowan told KATU on Wednesday.

Fire working its way toward the lodge was tough to see.

“There’s a lot of emotions, but we feel pretty good about what we’ve been able to contribute to this,” McGowan said.

He said many of his crew members were from the area and protecting the state treasure meant even more.

His crew joined a joint task force late Monday night. They set up the ladder truck and sprayed water around the perimeter of the lodge.

“With all the foliage around there with the trees, the boulders we have to worry about, it was not an easy objective,” McGowan said.

They also had to drench the cedar roof. Around 5 a.m. Tuesday, things got a little iffy.

“It got pretty close,” McGowan said about the fire.

Thankfully, their efforts worked.

An overlap of crews -- those who fight structure fires and federal and state crews that fight wildland fires – came together.

“To be able to work seamlessly with them was very important and makes our jobs so much easier, and it allowed us to concentrate on that lodge,” McGowan said.

And while saving this lodge may be more personal for local firefighters, he knows any crew would have done the same.

“It feels good to do what we did and for everyone to see it and also know that’s what the fire service does,” said McGowan. “And had it been a different task force from a different county, they would have protected that building, and it would still be standing like it is right now.”

He said firefighters and equipment are still at the lodge on standby. He expects another update Thursday at 6 a.m.

More than 30,000 acres have burned in the Eagle Creek fire, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate.

Crews worked to build fire lines near Cascade Locks and Bridal Veil on Wednesday. It was 5 percent contained by the end of the day. Over 900 people are involved in fighting the fire.

No new evacuations were issued Wednesday.

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