The dramatic photos and tales of communities upended by the Eagle Creek fire have been heart rending for all those who work with and live in the Columbia Gorge. We have a long journey ahead, but the Gorge is a resilient place. Affected residents are returning to their homes, wild areas will rebound, and Friends of the Columbia Gorge will be working harder than ever to ensure that community voices and opinions are taken into account when the debates and discussions on next steps for the Gorge begin.To help first responders in fighting the fire and assisting those evacuating it's crucial that members of the public stay out of the Gorge at this point. For the most up-to-date information please consult the Forest Service's incident response page at: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584. You can also track developments on Friends' Facebook page and the Eagle Creek and Indian Creek Fires 2017 Facebook page.
Eagle Creek Fire: What Can I Do to Help?
VolunteerFuture Stewardship Opportunities: Friends and our partners will be organizing stewardship work parties after the fire damage can be assessed. If you are interested in volunteering, please register here. You’ll receive information when we are able to provide it.
The Gorge communities have been devastated by the fire and they need our support. These communities help make the Gorge a wonderful place. Visit the affected communities and thank the merchants and businesses for their perseverance and resilience during these past few weeks. Executive Director Kevin Gorman: It's Time to Reconnect With the Gorge
Cascade Locks Strong: Businesses in Cascade Locks, OR have been especially hit hard by the fire and its associated evacuations and road closures. Through this business coalition's website, buy a gift certificates and make a commitment to come support Gorge communities as they recover from the losses incurred due to the Eagle Creek fire.
Cascade Red Cross: The local Red Cross is maintaining evacuation centers for displaced Gorge residents in Gresham, OR and Stevenson, WA. Consider supporting this local chapter with a gift.
Friends of the Columbia Gorge: Consider investing in long-term stewardship efforts by becoming a member of Friends of the Columbia Gorge. Before a single sapling can be planted or any trails can be rebuilt, plans for restoration and future recreation need to be created, debated and finally implemented. Friends is the only nonprofit organization dedicated entirely to ensuring that the beautiful and wild Columbia Gorge remains a place apart, an unspoiled treasure for generations to come. What gets decided in the next year or two will affect the Gorge for decades. Join us and have a voice in that decision making.
Gorge First Responders: Honor the local heroes for their tireless fire-fighting efforts with a donation on this gofundme site organized by business member Thunder Island Brewery. Money collected will be evenly divided amongst the local fire departments in Carson, Cascade Locks, North Bonneville, Skamania, Stevenson, and Washougal.
Hood River County Sheriff and Search and Rescue: Immediately following the rescue of 153 hikers from Eagle Creek, Friends of the Columbia Gorge launched a social media fundraising campaign to support these heroes. We raised over $35,000 in less than a week! A memorial fund has since been created in honor of a recently deceased sheriff deputy. The Hood River County Mike Anderson Search and Rescue Fund will directly support the county’s search and rescue efforts. Donations can be made at any U.S. Bank branch or can be delivered or mailed to: 601 State Street, Hood River, OR 97031.
Skamania County: The County is still fighting the Archer Mountain fire and supporting the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts and is asking for monetary donations. Contact Sarah Slack at Skamania County Community Events: 509-427-3980.
The National Forest Foundation Fund: The US Forest Service’s official non-profit organization, created a fund to support on-the-ground recovery and restoration efforts from the effects of the Eagle Creek fire. Donate here.
The following 16 organizations are hugely influential in making the area the recreational gem we love. From protecting and enhancing the landscapes and trails of the Gorge to volunteering as first responders when people are in need of help, read this blog from local author Laura O. Foster.
Your favorite waterfall trail might be closed right now, but there are many other areas to discover (or re-discover) within the Gorge and neighboring areas. View our list of Washington and Oregon Hiking & Recreation Areas open to explore.
Eagle Creek Fire General FAQ
How much of the Gorge has burned?
The fire has jumped around, creating a real mosaic. There will be partially burned areas, green areas and areas that have completely burned. Once the fire is out it will take time to conduct a full and thorough assessment of the fire by the Forest Service and other experts. View a map showing the fire boundaries and the soil burn severity.
As the decisions made in coming months could impact the Gorge for years or decades to come it's important that this assessment is done right. It's also important that the economic impact of the fire on Gorge communities also be assessed.
What can be done to help restore trees lost in the fire? Should the public replant?
The first step after the fires are out will be for scientists and other specialists to properly assess the ecological damage and make recommendations on any steps that could help natural systems rebound. The Gorge is protected as a federal National Scenic Area. Any reforesting efforts must be done working with the U.S. Forest Service and partner agencies. But patience must be given to do this assessment properly and care given on any steps recommended. In the wake of a fire there will be an increased risk of damaging invasive species and as the fire has burned in a mosaic there may be very different biodiversity impacts at different locations and elevations.
What has Friends done so far in response to the fire?
Friends' immediate response to the Eagle Creek wildfire has focused on three main fronts: assisting, and advising community partners; helping educate the public; and advocating for the policies and programs needed to aid Gorge communities and begin to address long-term recovery efforts.
What is Friends' long-term response to the fire?
The Columbia Gorge is a resilient place. While embers continue to smolder, the 50,000-acre fire is largely contained. No lives were lost, four buildings were destroyed, and the forest now appears to be a mosaic of green and charred landscape. But the Gorge's resilience is now being put to the test. Friends of the Columbia Gorge is calling for a Gorge Resilience initiative to restore, rebuild, and rejuvenate the Columbia Gorge. Gorge Resilience would work to heal the land, rethink Gorge’s trail and transportation systems and support Gorge communities as they recover economically from the fire.
What does the fire mean for the Preserve the Wonder campaign?
Since the fire started on Sept. 2 over 48,000 acres have been scorched on the Oregon side of the Gorge, wiping out wildlife habitat and many trails. Passion is high and ideas abound for how it should be restored. The fire reaffirms the importance of the Preserve the Wonder campaign for Gorge resilience. The campaign will permanently protect seven key sites on the Washington side of the Gorge, totaling over 420 acres. These lands provide future recreation, protect thousands of trees, and ensure the beauty of the landscape for future generations.
What can be done immediately on the policy front?
Ensuring any and all federal and state resources are available for all public agencies working to fight, contain and aid communities in the Gorge threatened by the Eagle Creek Fire is critical right now. Additional resources will also be needed by federal, state and local agencies after the fire is out to address issues such as soil erosion and increased rock/mudslide risks which could threaten local infrastructure, homes and thoroughfares in areas affected by the wildfires.
Will salvage logging help the ecosystem recover?
Salvage logging is completely inappropriate for the Columbia River Gorge. Many studies have been done on forest fires and salvage logging. There is no strong, scientific evidence of an ecological benefit from salvage logging in a post-fire environment. In fact, salvage logging can be highly disruptive of natural recovery processes. This is a consequence of the negative impacts of salvage on surviving organisms and structures in disturbed areas and on vegetation that re-establishes naturally following the disturbance. To the contrary, experts have determined that recently burned landscapes that are not logged are some of the richest and rarest in the Pacific Northwest.
Read more about Friends' position on Congressman Greg Walden's proposed salvage logging bill (H.R. 3715).
What does this mean for the future of Gorge recreation?
Right now our primary concern is the safety of those in Gorge communities threatened by this devastating fire and those on the front lines working to fight the fire and aid those in need. The time to discuss how to rebuild and create policy solutions to prevent future wildfires and better manage the Gorge will come later, after the fire has been contained and all are safe.