The Gorge Is Burning: What to Know and How to Help
The Eagle Creek fire—allegedly sparked by teenagers playing with fireworks over Labor Day weekend—has so far consumed at least 10,000 acres in and around some of the most cherished hiking, biking, mountaineering, and sightseeing destinations in the Northwest. (This time-lapse video, shot near Cascade Locks, testifies to the fire's power, speed, and proximity to urban areas.) With evacuation orders, safety and relief efforts, and firefighting information changing rapidly, here are a few sources of insight and opportunities to assist:
The regional Red Cross urged direct donations earmarked for “disaster relief” via redcross.org.
Here is updated info on manpower involved and specifically what’s being done, from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
The Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, the nonprofit that spearheads many aspects of Gorge conservation, issued an FAQ and is accepting online donations to Hood River County Search & Rescue.
The Multnomah County Sherriff’s Department’s Facebook page describes the nomenclature of evacuation levels, and requests that citizens not attempt to offer volunteer help at the fire scene itself or drop off donated supplies at the department’s offices or other first-responder facilities. KGW offers an overview of effective ways to help, large and small—as well as insight on what to look for in a protective mask.
The Oregonian’s rolling coverage provides a mix of hard news and social media reaction.
This wonky-but-fascinating site brings together monitoring tools developed by the US Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. The EPA's assessment of air quality here can be found at Airnow.gov.
Multnomah County’s emergency declaration was accompanied by a statement from County chair Deborah Kafoury: “Our hearts are breaking; the Gorge is Oregon’s crown jewel.”
Clackamas County Fair Grounds is accepting humans, livestock, and pets. Meowhaus is making 10 suites available through the end of September to cats whose owners have been displaced by the fire. VCA East Mill Plain and VCA Battle Ground Animal Hospitals are accepting evacuated animals free of charge as space is available. Short Acres Farm is open for horses (or livestock) needing evacuations. They have trailers to offer traveling assistance. Strobel’s Arena is open to evacuated horses and has room to store horse trailers. New animal shelter opportunities continuously updated on the Columbia Gorge Wildfire: Animal Rescue page. The Oregonian reports a massive early release of hatchery fish.
As for the place the Gorge holds in Northwest culture, a 2012 Portland Monthly story cited the words of defining regional architect and preservationist John Yeon:
“I cannot possibly express my endless pleasure in the magnificence of the Gorge nor my sense of its uniqueness. Its...crags and collection of waterfalls exist between rain forests and semi-deserts, combining a contrast of landscapes usually separated by great distances, if not by oceans…. No other city has such a rare resource as close as a suburban park. And if it had, no other city would tolerate its imminent degradation.”