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Over 900 firefighters battle searing heat that destroyed three homes, several outbuildings.

COURTESY PHOTO - The Eagle Creek Fire lights up the night sky on Monday, Sept. 4. This view is taken from the Washington side of the Columbia River, with the lights of Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods shown on the Oregon side of the river.The Eagle Creek Fire has seared 33,382 acres in five days in the Columbia River Gorge and fire officials said Thursday morning they are beginning to get a handle on the blaze.

"The fire laid down overnight," Lt. Damon Simmons, of Oregon Fire Marshal's office said at a press briefing Thursday morning, Sept. 7. "Progress is being made" and the fire is 5 percent contained.

COURTESY PHOTO - This infrared image taken by a surveillance aircraft shows fire surrounding Multnomah Falls at 2:28 a.m. Wednesday, Sept.6.There are 928 firefighters from around the state and country battling the inferno in the Gorge near the town of Cascade Locks, Simmons said. "This fire is number one in the nation right now."

The Eagle Creek Fire started Saturday, Sept. 2, and merged with the nearby Indian Creek Fire overnight Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Interstate 84 from Troutdale to Hood River remained closed. The Union Pacific rail line through the area is also closed. The Coast Guard Tuesday closed about 20 miles of the Columbia River so aircraft could safely draw water to battle the blaze. They are allowing commercial ships to pass on a case-by-case basis, said Lt. Commander Laura Springer. Corbett schools had been closed for three days by Thursday.

The fire made the air thick with smoke in Northwest Oregon causing breathing difficulties for many. Ash fell in through East Multnomah County and on into the Portland area and beyond, blanketing everything.

With cooler weather, calmer winds and a 20 percent chance of rain, Simmons said firefighters are hopeful that the improved weather will continue to help the supression efforts.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Firefighters and Mutlnomah County Road crews monitor the road closure on the Historic Columbia River Highway where the evacuation level changes to Level 3 — 'Go!'So far, three homes have been destroyed by the blaze. Those losses occurred in the tiny communities of Warrendale and Dodson, Simmons said. There are 1,865 people affected by the blaze. The safety of the Bull Run Watershed and the Bonneville Dam power plant are priorities.

Firefighters battled mightily and saved the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge, which sits beneath the iconic cascade of water about 18 miles east of Troutdale. Flames reached a mere 30 yards from the much-visited building. People come from all over the world to hike, bike and otherwise enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Gorge and it's unclear which hiking trails and natural features might be damaged or closed or for how long.

Simmons said there is "significant damage" to many Gorge trails. It's up to the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to determine when it is safe to open them.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is working on a plan to remove between 1,500 and 2,000 damaged trees along I-84 and, after the fire is contained, assess when the busy east-west transportation corridor can be reopened, perhaps partially at first. There also are fallen rocks, but "everyone would prefer to get the highway open sooner rather than later," ODOT spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie told The Outlook.

COURTESY PHOTO - The Eagle Creek Fire burns Monday on the hillside near the Cascade Salmon Hatchery at Eagle Creek. The proximity of the fire led officials to intentionally release juvenile salmon from the hatchery, and then evacuate hatchery employees out of harm's way. The transportation agency has not yet begun to evaluate the Historic Columbia River Highway, which is also closed in the area.

Simmons, a fire official, said Wednesday he had driven through the Gorge early in the day, offered hope about Oregon's cultural and environmental treasures.

"The gorge still looks like the gorge. It's not a wasteland, it's not a blackened, destroyed no-man's land," he said. "There's trees everywhere and they look good."

But on Thursday he said "a fire did go through the Gorge," and called it a mosaic burn, with patches left pristine and others charred.

"There are ridge tops with a lot of trees and ridge tops where a fire obviously went through."

Oregon State Police have not yet charged or arrested the 15-year-old boy from Vancouver, Wash., who police say is a suspect in the fire investigation.

The unidentified boy and several companions allegedly started the Eagle Creek Fire by tossing fireworks off a cliff, according to police reports and media accounts.

Capt. Bill Fugate told reporters Wednesday that potential charges range from reckless burning — a misdemeanor — to arson, a felony. The district attorneys in Hood River and Multnomah counties will decide the level of any charges after state police finish their investigation.

By 2 a.m. Tuesday, the fire jumped the Columbia River into Washington and is burning near Archer Mountain.

Evacuation notices did not change as of Thursday morning. Corbett and nearby Springdale were put on a level 2 evacuation notice Tuesday morning, which means residents should be packed and ready to flee.

Troutdale east of 257th Avenue and north of Stark Street and west of the Sandy River was put on a level 1 evacuation notice Tuesday afternoon.

The evacuation levels are "ready" or Level 1, "set" or Level 2 and "go" Level 3. About 400 homes in areas including Warrendale, Dodson, Larch Mountain, Latourell, Bridal Veil and Corbett east of Evans Road are under a level 3 evacuation notice, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday morning.

Thursday Simmons said he could not estimate when folks might be able to return to their homes.

Officials continued to urge people to stay out of the area to keep everyone safe. Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese warned there is "robust law enforcement" in areas under level 2 and 3 evacuation notices.

They are also asking people not to deliver any food or supplies to the Sheriff's Office or first responder staging areas.

The Mt. Hood Community College gym has been set up as a shelter for victims at 3691 N.E. 17th Drive. About 75 people have taken advantage of the shelter. A few are staying in their recreational vehicles in the MHCC parking lot.

Previous updates below:

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK SEGULJIC - The Eagle Creek fire approaches Cascade Locks. The Eagle Creek fire has spread to 32,929 acres and remains 0 percent contained, fire officials said early Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Over 600 firefighters are battling the inferno in the Columbia River Gorge, which stretches from the eastern edges of Crown Point to areas near the Indian Creek Campground.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK SEGULJIC - Smoke from the Eagle Creek fire obscures the Bonneville Trailhead in the Columbia River Gorge.One building and four outbuildings have been destroyed by the conflagration so far. Those losses occurred in the rural communities of Warrendale and Dodson, officials report.

Lt. Damon Simmons, a fire information official, said the increase in affected acreage should be attributed to more accurate information provided by infrared scans on overhead flights. Information released Tuesday said about 10,000 acres were burning.

"I don't think those are new acres," Simmons told reporters massed in Troutdale.

Simmons, who said he had driven through the Gorge early in the day, offered a ray of hope about Oregon's cultural and environmental treasures.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK SEGULJIC - Firefighting planes scoop up water from the Columbia River to battle the Eagle Creek blaze."The gorge still looks like the gorge. It's not a wasteland, it's not a blackened, destroyed no man's land," he said. "There's trees everywhere and they look good."

"It's still a beautiful drive through there when you see it in the daylight. It looks good," he continued.

A burnout is planned in Cascade Locks today, which will will increase smoke in the area but will also remove potential tinder and other foliage.

Lightning strikes are a possibility in the Portland metro area later in the day on Wednesday, with at least some risk of new burns being ignited outside existing fire lines.

Oregon state police have not yet charged or arrested the 15-year-old boy from Vancouver, Wash., who police say is a suspect in the fire investigation. The unidentified boy and several companions allegedly started the Eagle Creek fire by tossing fireworks off a cliff, according to police reports and media accounts.

Capt. Bill Fugate told reporters that potential charges range from reckless burning — a misdemeanor — to arson, a felony. The district attorneys in Hood River or Multnomah counties will decide the level of any charges after state police finish their investigation.

PHOTO COURTESY PORTLAND FIRE & RESCUE - Firefighters battle to save Multnomah Falls Lodge. Corbett and Springdale were put on a level 2 evacuation alert on Tuesday, Sept. 5, and the Corbett School District closed Tuesday because of the forest fire raging in the Columbia River Gorge.

Randy Trani, superintendent of Corbett School District, announced "local fire authorities are exercising an abundance of caution and based on their recommendation Corbett School District is closed on September 5."

The Eagle Creek Fire started Saturday, Sept. 2, and has exploded to more than 10,000 acres. Interstate 84 from Troutdale to Hood River remained closed Tuesday. The rail line through the area is also closed. Investigators believe fireworks were to blame for the blaze. Homes in the path of the fire have been evacuated.



Brisk east winds are expected to continue through Tuesday and the winds are expected to switch to westerly winds on Wednesday, gusting to 15 miles per hour.

Fire authorities said more than 450 firefighters from 10 fire task force companies from Portland, Hillsboro, Gresham and elsewhere worked through the night to provide structure protection. Firefighters are making a stand to protect the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge. As of late Tuesday morning, there have been no known residential structure losses.

By 2 a.m. Tuesday, the fire jumped the Columbia River into Washington and is burning near Archer Mountain. Washington Route 14 is open to passenger cars, but closed to commercial vehicles.

PHOTO COURTESY KOIN/GLENN DAMAN - The Eagle Creek Fire as seen from Stevenson, Wash. on Sunday, Sept. 3. Corbett and nearby Springdale were put on a level 2 evacuation notice Tuesday morning, which means residents should be packed and ready to flee. Troutdale east of 257th Avenue and north of Stark Street and west of the Sandy River was put on a level 1 evacuation notice Tuesday afternoon.

The evacuation levels are "ready" or level 1, "set" or level 2 and "go" level 3. Several areas including Warrendale, Dodson, Larch Mountain, Latourell, Bridal Veil and Corbett east of Evans Roadare under a level 3 evacuation notice, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday morning. About 400 people have been forced to leave their homes, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office said.

They urged people to stay out of the area to keep everyone safe. They are also asking people not to deliver any supplies to the Sheriff's Office or first responder staging areas.

The Mt. Hood Community College gym has been set up as a shelter for victims at 3691 N.E. 17th Drive.

Fire officials called this "a dynamic situation" and said that "due to extreme fire behavior and rapid fire growth," the evacuation notices were expanded to protect the public.

Schools farther away from the flames were working to keep students safe in the excessive heat and poor air quality predicted for Tuesday and beyond.

Gresham-Barlow Schools said it is working with its heating and cooling systems to keep the temperatures as comfortable as possible for the first day of school. They asked parents to dress students for the weather and give them a water bottle.

Gresham-Barlow also said it may curtail outdoor activities because of poor air quality.

Trani said "authorities do not expect the fire to threaten Corbett proper but we encourage everyone to be alert and monitor local TV and radio stations."

Trani said he wanted to stress "again that the authorities do not expect the fire to approach Corbett proper (but) they do want people to be informed. Should people need to evacuate authorities will issue a level 3 evacuation notice, authorities will patrol neighborhoods with sirens on, be sure to monitor your TV and radio stations, should you hear sirens during the night evacuate immediately."

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK SEGULJIC - The Eagle Creek Fire had grown to 4,800 acres by Tuesday morning.

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