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OSP: Gorge wildfire may be tied to misuse of fireworks

Suspect identified; hikers safe; town threatened

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. - (Update: Fire may be caused by fireworks misuse; Gov. Brown invokes Conflagration aCt)

A wildfire that trapped more than 150 hikers in the Columbia River Gorge and threatens the town of Cascade Locks was human-caused and possibly from misuse of fireworks, Oregon State Police said Sunday.

"A suspect has been identified and additional information will be released as the investigation develops," troopers said. "This investigation is being conducted jointly by the Oregon State Police, U.S. Forest Service, Hood River Sheriff's Office, Hood River District Attorney's Office and fire personnel."

The last of 153 hikers trapped by two wildfires in the Eagle Creek area hiked out of the Wahtum Lake area on Sunday afternoon and were headed to a reunification site by bus, Hood River County sheriff's deputies said.

The Eagle Creek Fire broke out Saturday in the Eagle Creek Trail area and also led to evacuations in Cascade Locks, just a half-mile from the fire, officials said

The fire was reported around 4 p.m. Saturday and grew to about 3,000 acres overnight, moving to within about a half-mile of Cascade Locks, a town of about 1,100.

For their safety, the 153 hikers trapped between the new fire and an older blaze had to shelter in place last night near Tunnel Falls as the fire had cut off their return access. A National Guard helicopter dropped supplies to the hikers Saturday.

 The Hood River County Sheriff put evacuations into place Saturday night in the community of Cascade Locks. A Level 3 (Go) evacuation notice was given to homes south of Interstate 84 and all residences north of I-84 in the Cascade Locks area were under Level 2 (Be Set) evacuation notice.

With about 130 homes under evacuation orders, a Red Cross shelter was set up at the Skamania County Fairgrounds, across the Columbia River in Stevenson, Washington.

Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act Sunday afternoon in response to the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

At the time of the declaration, the entire town of Cascade Locks was under a Level 2 evacuation, with other homes in the community and the Oxbow Hatchery at Level 3. In addition, the fire threatens Bonneville Power Administration lines in the area.

"Crews are deployed throughout Oregon fighting some of the most intense wildfires in the nation," Brown said. "The swift action of fire crews responding to the Eagle Creek Fire and heroic efforts of our Oregon National Guard saved lives, and I thank the crews still on the front lines who are working actively to contain the fire."

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area closed all trails from Wyeth Trail to John Yeon State Park, in addition to trail closures already in place. See the complete list at:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/crgnsa/alerts-notices/?aid=41589

For updated information on the Eagle Creek Fire, visit the incident’s Inciweb page (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584), on the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/crgnsa/), or follow on Twitter https://twitter.com/CRGNSA.


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