Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge
The Eagle Creek fire burned through the Columbia River Gorge in 2017
The fire severity map revealed that only 8,000 acres burned severely.
Many Hands Helped Restore Trails
The Columbia Gorge Trails Didn’t Stay Closed For Long
Since the fire, teams of volunteers with the Pacific Crest Trail Association, Washington Trails Association and Trailkeepers of Oregon worked with Oregon State Parks and the United States Forest Service to, quickly re-opening nearly 85% of the trail network.
Wildlife is Thriving
Wildlife photographers set out to see how wildlife fared and found bears, deer, elk, bobcat, cougars, fox, coyote, skunk, badger, pika and more at multiple locations throughout the Gorge. The bird life is off the charts. Black-backed, white-headed and pileated woodpeckers feed on the vast supermarket of tasty treats provided by the fire-killed trees.
Time-lapse photographers captured the rapid regrowth, first as ferns burst forth and then as shrubs and new conifers took hold. Check out these time-lapse photos.
2020 Oregon Wildfires
On Labor Day in 2020, Oregon experienced extreme wildfires, as power lines, arson and other human caused fire starts were fanned and driven by extreme winds and drought into communities, destroying thousands of homes and upending lives. Toxic and hazardous smoke poured into our towns and cities, and parts of Portland, Salem and Eugene were put in wildfire alert. On Labor Day in 2020, Oregon experienced extreme wildfires, as power lines, arson and other human caused fire starts were fanned and driven by extreme winds and drought into communities, destroying thousands of homes and upending lives. Toxic and hazardous smoke poured into our towns and cities, and parts of Portland, Salem and Eugene were put in wildfire alert.
All of us in Oregon are trying to make sense of these fires and figure out a path forward, and Green Oregon has consulted the experts to try to figure it out. The questions and answers we sought answers to are here for you to read.
What started these fires and what do the patterns of destruction teach us?
In the towns of Gates, Mill City and Lyons, the fires burned homes and killed the trees near those homes, yet throughout the town you will find many green trees. The fires ignited a structure to structure fire. The patterns of destruction in many of these cases show that the primary cause was human-caused ignitions and fire spread driven by extreme winds
What role did tree farms and past logging areas play in the severity of the fires?
The Oregonian flew over the area burned by the Holiday Farm fire along the McKenzie with an expert who noted the extent of the fire and the extensive land management within the fire perimeter.
Is it possible to manage forests to reduce fire risk across vast landscapes?
As the Oregonian has reported: “Roughly 1% of US Forest Service forest treatments experience wildfire each year, on average,” said a 2017 research paper [Dr. Tania Schoenagel] co-authored. “The effectiveness of forest treatments lasts about 10–20 years, suggesting that most treatments have little influence on wildfire.”
As Oregon Public Broadcasting reported: “The belief people have is that somehow or another we can thin our way to low-intensity fire that will be easy to suppress, easy to contain, easy to control. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Jack Cohen, a retired U.S. Forest Service scientist who pioneered research on how homes catch fire.”
What threats do we expect to see to Oregon’s public lands that burned?
After fire we can expect to see a lot of proposals to log our public lands. The pressure to log our public lands will be great, because a lot of timber companies’ young tree farms were incinerated in the fires. Oregonians have lost so much in these fires, we need to ask what is best for our lands that burned. The areas of the Gorge burned by the Eagle Creek fire were not logged, and they are green and full of life again. Young conifers are beginning to emerge. While the timber industry calls post-fire logging “salvage” is the practice really making something good out of the situation? A
Top scientists tell us that post-fire logging sets back forest regeneration and increases future fire risk. The burned landscape is sensitive after fire, and often the best thing we can do is let nature heal.