Cascade Locks feels the burn
Forced out by fire and flames, locals aren't the only ones cut off from Cascade Locks. The Eagle Creek wildfire has also severed the town's link with its lifeblood: Tourism.
"It's a town that doesn't make a lot of money," admits Mayor Tom Cramblett. "We all live — or at least I do — from paycheck to paycheck. And right now we're not making paychecks."
The 66-year-old riverboat captain says his home is within the prescribed evacuation areas, but he hasn't left yet. Some residents continue to shelter in place at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham and a fairgrounds in Washington.
"The impact is being away from your home," Cramblett says. "It doesn't take long to fatigue you, and you can't go home."
In a bitter twist, this isn't the first time an errant firecracker has disrupted life in this town of roughly 1,100.
While the first three white families settled near indigenous populations in 1853, Cascade Locks was only officially incorporated after a child set off fireworks that accidentally set downtown buildings alight.
Parts of the city were reportedly burned to the ground because the nearby water pipes were too small. Relevant details of the town's history were first unearthed by OPB, the Pamplin Media Group's news partner.
Cramblett pilots the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler, a pleasure cruise ship. He's halfway through his third two-year term as mayor.
"(Tourists) need to come back to Cascade Locks," Cramblett told The Outlook during an interview at Bonneville Hatchery on Thursday, Sept. 7. "The Gorge is going to be different, but there's going to be a whole new beauty to it."