Local sheriff's office Columbia Gorge recovery efforts to be aided by grant money

OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - Firefighters take a break from defending Multnomah Falls Lodge last fall during the Eagle Creek Fire that swept through the Columbia River Gorge. The Oregon House approved funding last weekend to support the Eagle Creek Fire recovery efforts.

House Bill 4152, which was approved via vote on Saturday, March 3, provides grants through the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to support the Multnomah County and Hood River County sheriff's offices as their crews work to make burn areas safe to the public.

The chief sponsors of the bill were Rep. Jeff Helfrich, R-Hood River, and Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River.

The Eagle Creek fire ignited as a result of arson on Sept. 2, 2017, and swept through large portions of the Columbia River Gorge consuming more than 48,000 acres.

The 15-year-old Vancouver, Wash., boy charged with igniting the fire pleaded guilty in February to two counts of burning on forest land, eight counts of reckless burning, one count of criminal mischief and one count of reckless endangerment.

Judge John Olson sentenced the teen to five years of probation and 1,920 hours of community service facilitated by the U.S. Forest Service.

"The Eagle Creek Fire was one of the most devastating natural disasters in our community's history," Helfrich said. "This legislation will provide support for the Multnomah County and Hood River County sheriff's offices so they can acquire the resources and tools they need to manage fire recovery efforts."

The funding is important as public safety officers survey trails damaged by the fire and develop plans for conducting search-and-rescue operations.

Representatives from the office of Gov. Kate Brown, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, Hood River County Sheriff's Office, Port of Hood River and Port of Cascade Locks all submitted testimonies in favor of the bill.

With HB 4152 passing the House unanimously, the bill will now head to the Senate.

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