Brown: Fire threatens water, power systems
Gov. Kate Brown warned the Columbia River Gorge has already suffered a "devastating impact" from the Eagle Creek wildfire — and the blaze is still 0 percent contained as of Tuesday evening.
"We're very concerned, obviously, about the Bonneville power grid and the Bull Run watershed being at risk," Brown told reporters Tuesday, Sept. 5. "(The gorge) is a special place for many of us, and we're very concerned about the impact."
The human-sparked fire has jumped roughly 13 miles in 16 hours, Brown said, and about 400 homes have been evacuated in rural Multnomah County. No structures have been destroyed.
Also in East Multnomah County, another 850 homeowners have been warned there is a medium-level chance of an evacuation order, while roughly 4,000 homes in eastern Troutdale are at the lowest level of emergency readiness.
Troutdale Mayor Casey Ryan, who has been briefed on fire conditions, said the chance of a larger evacuation order remains "slim."
"The wind is supposed to pick up tonight. It's an East Wind, which is unusual for this time of year," he said in an interview. "If that happens, and it's a lot, it could affect us."
Gov. Brown has already signed an emergency conflagration act that allows authorities to tap state, interstate, federal and local resources to fight the flames and protect private property.
Brown said the Eagle Creek Fire has spread to more than 10,000 acres, compared with 170,000 acres for the Chetco Bar wildfire in southern Oregon. There are more than 1,400 emergency responders battling the Chetco fire.
Lt. Damon Simmons, a spokesman from Portland Fire, said firefighters saved 58 structures in the Dodson and Warrendale area during the ongoing battle.
"It was really a gutsy effort," he explained. "They had to work to make that fire move around those structures — rather than burning through them. It was house by house, structure by structure."
Though the cause of the Eagle Creek fire is still under investigation, a news release alleges that a 15-year-old boy from Vancouver, Wash., and several others may be responsible. They were seen playing in the woods with fireworks, according to various media reports.
"I would expect that they be held fully accountable for what has happened," Brown said when pressed by reporters.
The Union Pacific rail line traveling through the Columbia River Gorge has been closed, as has Interstate 84 between Troutdale and Hood River.
Sgt. Bryan White, a Multnomah County Sheriff's Office information officer, asked the public to please stay away from affected areas.
"They're curious. They're taking pictures. They're taking videos. I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous that is," he said.
Gov. Brown announced at the press conference that she had called up an additional 250 National Guard troops, for a total of more than 600. Those men and women are serving in support capacity during clean-up efforts, not as first-line firefighters.