PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – It was hot. It was dry. A teen set off fireworks along a hiking trail in the Columbia River Gorge.
That’s how the Eagle Creek Fire began on September 2, 2017.
The fire near the Eagle Creek Trail in Cascade Locks erupted near the already-burning Indian Creek Trail and sent a massive plume of smoke and visible bright flames over the Columbia River Gorge.
Almost immediately, the fire forced the evacuation of hikers, campers and residents in more than 100 homes.
A total of 153 hikers took shelter at Tunnel Falls overnight and made their way back to safety the next day. One person received medical attention for exhaustion and dehydration.
By September 5, fire crews were able to save the Multnomah Falls Lodge from the quickly-growing and rapidly-approaching Eagle Creek Fire.
The fire wasn’t 100% contained until November 30. It officially burned 48,000 acres of forest land.
The teen was officially charged on October 19, 2017. In February 2018, he pleaded guilty and apologized. In May he was ordered to pay $36 million in restitution.
The court can grant a full or partial satisfaction of the restitution after 10 years if the teen completes probation, does not commit additional offenses and complies with the payment plan.
The impact is still clear in many areas that were burned.
“You still see some of the effects of the burning but everything is growing back,” Esperanza said. “So there is a different kind of beauty coming back.”
More than 2,000 volunteers have worked hundreds of hours to reopen 60-miles of trails, shining a different light on the beauty of the Gorge.
“I feel like things are really recuperating quickly, which has been such a wonderful surprise,” Laurie Young said. “I know that people are back hiking the ones that were closed before, so that has been a blessing.”
Eagle Creek Trail taking final steps to reopen
Two years after a fire consumed trails and forests in the scenic Columbia River Gorge, the popular Eagle Creek Trail is in the final phases of reopening to the public, the Associated Press reports
Stan Hinatsu with the US Forest Service tells The Oregonian that the 13-mile trail could open as early as this fall or as late as next summer, depending on weather and assessments from forest officials.
Crews still need to install replacements for two bridges that were destroyed in the fire, and the materials could be airlifted to the trail in late September.
Hinatsu says once that’s complete officials will need to determine whether to open the trail right away or wait until weather improves next summer.