PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s been 20 months since the Labor Day Wildfires roared through Oregon. It’s also been that long since Hwy 224 has been open.
On Sunday, ODOT opened the highway east of Estacada 20 miles east to Ripplebrook after clearing thousands of burned trees and conducting hours of rockfall mitigation.
“We can’t have the public or anyone getting in there because of the high danger,” Will Ewing, a maintenance manager in ODOT’s District 2 told KOIN 6 News earlier in April. “There’s still another six or seven rockfall areas we have to work on through this summer. This is not going to be the last of it.”
The highway is cratered in many areas under rockfall-prone cliffs. Rockfall mitigation will still cause single-lane closures throughout the summer.
The area past Ripplebrook has been a popular outdoor destination in the summer but returning to the point of becoming fully usable again will likely take around five years, said Ben Watts, the outdoor recreation program manager for the West region of the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Clackamas County residents won’t soon forget the devastating Beachie Creek and Lionshead complex fires.
Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith was among those forced to evacuate. She stayed away for more than a month.
“What I saw was horrific and it was dangerous,” Smith told KOIN 6 News in February. She added the danger still remains on Highway 224.