A horrible tragedy has hit us in the Pacific Northwest.
Some teenagers were playing with fireworks near Punchbowl Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail and ended up lighting the entire gorge on fire. We have not had rain here in weeks, everything turns to tinder in the summer. One careless act has taken away so much.
This started on Saturday afternoon while 100+ hikers were on the trail. There are videos all over the web posted by the hikers about the smoke growing and them becoming trapped and ubbale to reach the trailhead. The hikers ended up spening the night near Tunnel falls while search and rescue were working on the next steps. Busses ended up meeting them near Wahtum Lake and bringing them to safety.
Since Saturday, the flames have carried west and have engulfed many of the popular sites that we all love in the Columbia Gorge. I have had the proviledge to photograph weddings at Wahclella, Horsetail, and Multnomah Falls. Those sites will never be the same in our lifetime. All are currently burning, and the flames are workign their way towards the towns of Corbett, Bridal Veil, and Troutdale.
My friend and fellow photographer, Oca Hoeflien, has a camera setup across from Cascade Locks that updates the image every 5 minutes at his website: http://whereinthegorge.com/
My heart is breaking for all the people and animals that live in the area, the individuals who have lost their jobs due to the damage, and the amazing landscape that we have been blessed toenjoy in the Columbia gorge.
Just overnight the flames jumped the Columbia River and have caught near Skamania, WA. That amazing stone house that is hidden in the area is now in flames.
In 1902, a fire was started in the Eagle Creek area as well, it grew, and ended up wiping out 500,000 acres of wilderness. It wasnt a single fire, it was combined with multiple others, like a locomotive in Dodson (the Washington side this time was in Dodson as well), and lightening strikes to the north. This was called the Yacolt Burn and is infamous in this area. Now, there are more fires up in Indian Heaven, Panther Creek, and just outside of Washougal. That tragedy in 1902 was also started by humans, apparently, some kids deciding to torch a yellow jacket nest.
We have new ways of fighting flames this day, but with the famous gorge winds, the fire is still not contained. Who knows how many more acres will burn, how many homes will be lost, and how long it will take to recover from this awful event.
Please, be safe out there in the woods. Always put your campfires out completely, never throw lit material into a noncontained fire pit, and always respect Mother Nature.