About 40 families living in east Multnomah County are free to return to their homes today, more than a week after being evacuated as the fast-moving Eagle Creek Fire swept west out of Cascade Locks.
“We still encourage people to maintain a level of awareness so they remain safe,” Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said at a morning briefing, as he announced the changes in evacuation levels.
Level 3 evacuation (go now) orders remain in effect for Dodson, Warrendale, Bridal Veil and :
The Historic Columbia River Highway East of Alex Barr Road, addresses in the 43800 block and higher
Larch Mountain Road: East of Brower Road, addresses in the 45800 block and higher
All of Brower Road, including Toll Road
East Haines Road: addresses in the 43800 block and higher
Level 2 evacuation (be set) notices remain for Latourell, Corbett, Springdale, Troutdale east of the Sandy River and:
Larch Mountain Road: West of Brower Road, addresses in the 45700 block and lower, including Salzman and Alder Meadows roads
E Haines Road: addresses in the 43700 block and lower (towards Larch Mountain Road)
Level 1 evacuation (get ready) notices have been lifted for all areas.
Residents downgraded from a Level 3 to a Level 2 evacuation order should bring identification to a Re-Entry Center located at Corbett Community Church (34309 NE Mershon Rd, Corbett OR 97019). Residents downgraded to a Level 2 evacuation notice should return with only household pets. Livestock should not be returned until the evacuation orders have lifted, said Sheriff spokesman, Lt. Chad Gaidos.
Gaidos also asked that residents whose homes remain in a Level 3 evacuation zone to be patient.
“For those still under Level 3, we ask you remain evacuated for your safety and the safety of first responders working in the area,” he said. “The sheriff’s office understands the importance of getting our residents back into their homes and neighborhoods as quickly as possible.”
Weather, roads and applause
The change in evacuation zones come as firefighters strengthen their defenses along the western perimeter of the blaze, which has now consumed nearly 36,000 acres in the Columbia Gorge. Dry air and winds from the west caused the fire to pick up Tuesday evening in the Herman Creek drainage, Fire Incident Command spokesperson Jim Whittington said Wednesday.
“We had a challenging day yesterday, a tough day in terms of fire behavior,” he said. “We were really hoping to keep it in Herman Creek. But winds got the better of us. That said we’re still in good shape, protecting communities that are out there.”
Whittington said the fire is now 13 percent contained.
The new activity near Herman Creek has also delayed plans by the Oregon Department of Transportation to open westbound lanes of Interstate 84 between Troutdale and Hood River, spokesman Don Hamilton said Wednesday. (Washington State Route 14 along the Columbia River remains open, as does U.S. Highway 26).
“We have no timeline now for reopening,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that section of road is safe before we can get that reopened.”
ODOT has removed 3,000 downed and damaged trees, and expects to remove more than 500 more from the slopes about I-84. But Hamilton said the work has just begun on the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, where crews have used snow plows to clear rocks and trees so fire crews can pass.
“So we haven’t had a chance for a thorough inspection,” he said. “We’re expecting a lengthy closure.”
Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who represents East Multnomah County praised the efforts of emergency responders and community volunteers.
“This is my district and my home and I want to extend my sincere appreciation,” she said Wednesday.
“Years from now,” she said, “People will remember that our iconic gorge and its landmarks were protected and saved from certain ruin by the heroic efforts of our firefighters.”
People will remember the volunteers who worked overnight to save livestock, those who volunteered in evacuation shelters and those who cooked meals.
“But most of all,” she said, “I hope people remember that this was a time when our community pulled together and overcame adversity.”