Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Reflections on the Eagle Creek Fire from ‘Gorge Getaways’ author Laura Foster

Posted by on September 5th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Eagle Creek in 2015.
(Photo by Debbie Asakawa)

Laura O. Foster is author of Portland Hill Walks and Columbia Gorge Getaways. She lives in the west hills above Highway 30 north of Sauvie Island. Last summer Foster shared tips on riding the ‘Trail of the Gods’ from Stevenson (WA) to Cascade Locks.

The Columbia Gorge. Three Days Ago. Today.

1:00 a.m. today: The smell of burning forest punched through an already-uneasy sleep. I stepped outside, sniffing, looking through the dark for flames, afraid our land was on fire.

But it wasn’t this forest’s turn. This fire is ravaging the Columbia Gorge. A teenage boy, or two boys, throwing fireworks off a cliff, started this Eagle Creek Fire, named for a place so magnificent it was chosen for the first-in-the-nation Forest Service campground, 101 years ago.

Three days ago these bits of ash on my porch could have been bark on an old-growth Douglas fir.
(Photo: Laura Foster)

A hike into its green canyon is a memory to marvel over, a sanctuary to introduce to ones we love. It’s part of us, our story, our pride as stewards of this Pacific Northwest we are lucky enough to live in. We take our guests there. See? Isn’t it magnificent?

Those boys. Their rationale and lack of foresight are hard for a middle-aged woman to fathom. But they could not have guessed this expanding conflagration, this destruction, fear, sadness, death, disruption, grief. Do they even know about the east wind?

I feel sorry for them, and for their parents.

That wind keeps bringing me bits of our beautiful gorge. Through my screens come tiny black shards that lived, three days ago, as old growth Douglas fir bark. On my porch floor is grey ash. Three days ago, it was a branch woven into a bald eagle’s nest, or the dried grass in a mouse’s burrow, or the insect-laden trunk of a snag. The pileated woodpecker who mined that tree is somewhere safe, I hope. The insects… they’re atomized, small victims of human stupidity.

A friend reported seeing red-tailed hawks yesterday, circling near the burning woods. My heart cracked a bit with that news. Those confident predators, confused now, not yet able to leave what they had to leave.

The land will recover. In a few hundred years it will be back to where it was, three days ago.

Keep updated on Gorge developments post fire via Friends of the Columbia Gorge. They’re also on Facebook. Friends will keep reporting news, work parties, and ways to get involved. And next time you’re in the Gorge, help businesses recover from the economic shock of the fire: buy a meal, spend the night, update your outdoor gear, or buy some art or crafts in one of the Gorge towns, in Washington and Oregon.

— Laura O. Foster

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75 Comments
  • Michael Andersen September 5, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    What a beautiful piece.

    What a sad day.

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    • Laura O Foster September 5, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      Thank you, Michael.

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  • nuovorecord September 5, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    As if there weren’t enough heart-wrenching things happening in the world right now…

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  • Joe September 5, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    having hard time with all of this, ppl don’t want to listen about global changes.

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  • William Henderson September 5, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing this

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  • Brian September 5, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    I’ve been repressing my feelings about this until today. Such a loss for all of us, especially those whose lives are even more disrupted than mine. Laura, you did a hell of a job putting feelings into words. Thank you.

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    • Laura O Foster September 5, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      Thank you, Brian.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu September 5, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    I admire the sentiment. At the moment, I’m mostly consumed with anger.

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  • rick September 5, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Fireworks need to be banned in Oregon.

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    • Steve Scarich September 5, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      You can’t ban stupid. I am seeing more and more irrational acts of vandalism by teenagers. I don’t know if they don’t realize the difference between a virtual event and a real event, or if they were just brought up poorly. Eugene has had an epidemic of arson at high schools, rock-throwing at cars, shots at cars, all seemingly done by teens.

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      • Racer X September 5, 2017 at 6:31 pm

        Too bad the State of Oregon (and WASH) cannot seize any future Youtube video profits from the video one of the “participants” took for social media of this crime.

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      • Toadslick September 5, 2017 at 7:13 pm

        There are many, many adults that would have been just as likely to start this fire. I’m super hesitant to go down the road of “kids these days.”

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        • rachel b September 5, 2017 at 8:07 pm

          Can we say “boys and men these days,” though? It feels to me sometimes like One
          Great Acting Out everywhere by men and boys as they feel cheated of… what? I guess of what they saw previous generations of men and boys get.

          The number of men and boys I hear acting out on a daily basis is staggering and it just seems to keep increasing. One measure is the uptick in super loud noisy vehicles, modified or built to be that way. Driving them past midnight, past quiet houses where people are sleeping, past pedestrians in the day and scaring the bejeesus out of them as they gun it when they go by. It feels like dozens and dozens of men and boys drive past our house all fast and furious (and noisy as bloody hell) on SE 26th now, when only two year ago I would swear it was only a handful. A marked increase in aholes.

          Another measure is the whole fireworks thing, which seems to have just gone hugely haywire in recent years. More acting out, big time, by (again) men and boys, overwhelmingly.

          A lot of Trump’s male supporters seem to likewise feel cheated of something–their legacy, their ‘rights’ and are ‘fighting back’ The misguided pushback against minority groups is most tangible and noticeable, but I think that’s only because we still refuse to acknowledge how deeply ingrained sexism is in our culture. Because they are pushing back there with energy too–just less obviously.

          It feels like a lot of men and boys now are just constantly itching to give a giant FU to the world and are seizing passive-aggressive (and aggressive-aggressive) opportunities, increasingly. I guess you could take it as a rather hopeful sign that times really are changing. There’s a feel of real desperation to the pushback. But I am sick to death of being forced to deal with these noisy and destructive tantrums.

          Please don’t get on me for hating men. I do hate the men that do this shite–make no mistake. But my best friend in the world happens to be a man, and I like him just fine. Love him, even.

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          • rachel b September 5, 2017 at 8:08 pm

            Oh! And Toadslick–this response went way beyond specific (i.e., relating to your comment) and into general. Not responding to you beyond the obvious part!

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            • rachel b September 5, 2017 at 8:09 pm

              I agree with you, by the way.

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          • Toadslick September 5, 2017 at 8:57 pm

            I really appreciate your comment and perspective!

            My heart broke at “Please don’t get on me for hating men”, because it’s so frustrating and so ridiculous that we can’t talk about male aggressive posturing and acting out without being accused of “misandry.”

            It’s entirely relevant on a forum such as BikePortland, since so much of the antagonism that people on bikes experience relates to treating bicycles as more effeminate and less macho than cars.

            I am sick to death of being forced to deal with these noisy and destructive tantrums.

            Amen. A-freakin’-men.

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            • Mike Reams September 6, 2017 at 8:05 am

              We can’t talk about male aggressive posturing etc. without being accused of misandry because it has been made clear, there is no difference between men and women, period. To say otherwise makes you a bigot.

              We’re all going to have to decide, is it acceptable to say men and women are different? If it is, you’re going to have to accept that men and women might be different in ways you don’t like. Otherwise, men and women are the same and to say otherwise makes you a monster.

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              • MaxD September 6, 2017 at 10:11 am

                Mike Reams, I honestly don’t know who is saying there is no difference between men and women. What I have been hearing is that men and women should be given the same opportunities. I have heard that there is no one, clear definition for what it means to be a man or a woman. What I have heard is that it much more productive to understand gender as a spectrum, not a binary classification.

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              • rachel b September 6, 2017 at 2:02 pm

                Mike Reams–huh? ??

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              • Chelsea September 6, 2017 at 5:34 pm

                There is obviously a huge difference in who the perpetrators of violent and destructive crimes are.

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              • Mr. Know It All September 6, 2017 at 6:14 pm

                Yes, it’s becoming clear to more people all the time:
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtoaSePyRu0

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          • james dodge September 5, 2017 at 9:09 pm

            So sad. It seems to me that this is a welcome to the world as seen through the dystopian climate denial, vindictive trump lens. Is this the world they want?

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          • John Lascurettes September 5, 2017 at 11:14 pm

            Please don’t get on me for hating men. I do hate the men that do this shite–make no mistake. But my best friend in the world happens to be a man, and I like him just fine. Love him, even.

            Not taken that way but rather hating toxic masculinity, as do I.

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          • Dan A September 6, 2017 at 8:08 am

            Liz FitzGerald’s account says there was a large group of teenagers, including giggling girls.

            http://www.wweek.com/news/2017/09/05/woman-witnessed-teen-tossing-firecrackers-into-gorge-there-was-a-whole-group-of-kids-who-found-it-funny-to-do-this/

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            • rachel b September 6, 2017 at 2:03 pm

              OK. I guess that negates everything I said.

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              • Dan A September 6, 2017 at 2:49 pm

                I’m not saying that at all, just think it’s important to know all of the facts.

                Completely ignoring the gender issue for a moment, it does seem curious to me that the media isn’t really saying much about the 5 or 6 other teenagers who were in a position to do something and instead chose to do nothing. The 15-year-old in this story was driven there by an older kid. Was the older kid participating? Cheering him on?

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              • Mossby Pomegranate September 6, 2017 at 5:56 pm

                You clearly have an anti-male position.

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              • John Lascurettes September 6, 2017 at 5:59 pm

                … not to mention, that was the kid that was witnessed at that time. But were the other kids also lighting stuff off at other times?

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              • rachel b September 6, 2017 at 6:00 pm

                I knew that fact, having also read the news. But it wasn’t germane to the greater observation I was attempting to make in my original comment. And I agree with you–all those kids should be held responsible.

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          • KTaylor September 6, 2017 at 6:42 pm

            Very well said, rachel b! I’ve been noticing this a lot myself lately – it’s nice to hear someone just say it. I really noticed an uptick after the election – – I think having one of their own raised to the throne really made these guys feel vindicated, and they want us all to know. Fireworks (especially illegal ones – very macho!) are a big part of this and, as you say, the big, growly trucks and motorcycles. I am in marketing – I wish I had the money to develop a manipulative campaign that would brainwash these men and boys into believing that being quiet, cooperative, thoughtful and polite will prove to everyone what a big man they are. Or I wish I could invent something that could be inserted into a truck’s engine to make it sound like a basketful of mewing kittens. But mostly, I’d just like the whole idea of the Big Man to go away (at least this particular type of Big Man – I do not mean fat men, tall men or genuinely admirable men).

            I remember a science film from high school that showed how rats under stress either act out against others or retreat and groom themselves. So unfortunately, I think we’re due for a lot more of this crap as climate change drives scarcity and sends people from hot places fleeing to cooler ones with more resources that aggressive rats will fight to retain dominion over. In America, we’re doing this preemptively, with our president’s border wall and efforts to stall emigration. I sometimes feel a panicky urgency for nice, cooperative women and men to rise up and squash these hyper-masculine types good and hard, because otherwise, they will dominate and destroy our future, just like they have so much of our past. Unfortunately, it’s not really in our nature, and we for sure wouldn’t be up for doing it again, and again, and again, and again, which we’d have to in order to keep the disease in check. There’s just so much reward in this world for being an alpha a-hole – – and part of that reward is the attentions of giggling girls who think you are ‘so bad’ – – that also has to go. I could be wrong, but based on the witness’ description of the girl spotted in the passenger seat of the arsonists’ getaway car, I’d say she might be one of these. So hyper-feminine behavior is also a problem – just generally not as dangerous without hyper-masculinity in the mix.

            Anyway, I digress here. Very well said, in every respect, rachel b! I am also lucky enough to number some really great men among my friends – and I totally understand what you are saying – – these guys are not the problem. A person or a sex all on its own isn’t the problem – it’s this behavior, and the sense of privilege that spawns it, which is sex-linked – like baldness. If baldness were a social disease.

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          • Anna C September 6, 2017 at 9:39 pm

            “Noisy and Destructive tantrums.” Laughed out loud at how true this is. Extremely well said.

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          • wsbob September 7, 2017 at 11:58 am

            People, women and men, differ from each other in many ways, but both can, and do, stupid obnoxious things. I’m trying to remember a story from the O some years back. About what was then…haven’t heard lately…an annual big spring break retreat by a bunch of Oregon college students, OSU, U of O? At a lake, maybe in California around Mt Shasta. Story made for a big news story at the time, because the students left a huge mess, a lot of trash, but even difficult to comprehend things like leaving virtually new sleeping bags and other gear littered around, which other people had to clean up.

            Eagle Creek and other hiking and recreational destinations in the Gorge and elsewhere in Oregon, suffers to some extent from too easy accessibility. Eagle Creek is just a short hour or so drive from Portland. How to guard against the range of hazards posed by someone with little knowledge of the environment there or sensitivity to the caution it calls for? Outside of access exclusively through guided tours by responsible, trained and licensed people, I’m not sure what might be good alternative answers.

            Where is the reverence for the natural environment that tells people that at the very least, it’s not a place where you go to have a fireworks display, or take a firearm just to shoot up stuff for the hell of it? Lots of places in rural Oregon have the latter problem…people target shooting signs, old buildings, cars, trees, generally detracting from the natural beauty of things.

            The importance of including and promoting in people’s values reverence for the natural environment, in part accounts for why I feel it’s so important for people to very carefully not excessively and inappropriately use natural lands close to and even within city limits. The values instilled by experience on natural lands locally, can carry over to how people conduct themselves when they travel to natural land further afield.

            I feel kind of bad for people living in the central city, a place many seek as a place they’ve heard is wonderful place to live, and being besieged by people entertaining themselves with not consideration for the effect that has on other people. Rachel..sounds to me like it’s time for you to move away…far away from the hectic part of the city as you can…before you go completely nuts.

            When the rain finally starts, I hope there’s something still left of the forest on the north side of the mountains surrounding Eagle Creek.

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          • Marc LaPine September 9, 2017 at 10:09 pm

            I’m a man who grew up with a perpetually angry father that was continually stirring the pot and changing the rules to be in control. He was physically violent and was a poor communicator. There was no ‘ritual’ in his life to transition from boy to man. I would have thought enlisting in WW2 and being a B-17 mechanic in Britain would have done it, but not so. His older brother was in the army in Italy, saw his share of death and destruction, and had become a gentler man with much less ego. I was saved by the boy scouts in my early teens, and the music department in High School. There seems no reliable mentoring for male teens to adulthood; resulting in generation after generation of boys in mens bodies. A camaraderie between a father and son is rare to non existent; they both love the same woman. There is not the relationship I see so often between girls/women and their mothers. Why?
            You know of course the noisy exhaust, the aggressive driving, the road rage, the swearing, the posturing, the threatening behaviors are all based in fear, based in insecurity, based in childhood, never growing up.
            I suspect if you could be a fly on the wall in this kids family you would find the source of such anger and insecurity.
            The bigger question is how do boys mature to men not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually so that they can become productive members of society, not destructive members.

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    • Laura O Foster September 5, 2017 at 7:51 pm

      Hear hear. Couldn’t agree more. They’re a scourge.

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  • wsbob September 5, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    I’m worried about what will be the extent of the burn in the forests around Eagle Creek. The fact is though, forests and wilderness aren’t museums. They’re a place of constantly changing, living things. Beautiful as it’s ancient growth is, I’ve wondered how long all that natural land could continue to accumulate years of fallen and deteriorating debris before some massive conflagration didn’t come along to burn it all out.

    Not that some careless human beings, whatever their ages, should have been the source of the fire by their stupidity in playing with fireworks, or smoking, building campfires, or whatever, in the tinder dry conditions of the gorge this time of year. I’ve heard tell, a number of times, that some native American tribes, passed down through generations, had the knowledge of the benefits of controlled burns.

    Laura…most likely, you’re correct in believing the forest will come back again after this fire. Maybe better than before, someday, sooner than a hundred years, and though never the exact same as it was, equally beautiful in the years to come.

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    • Laura O Foster September 5, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      I don’t know anything about the history of fire suppression in the gorge and if the land was carrying an excess load of fuel that would’ve, under totally natural conditions, burned to less severity in the last century. But in any case, it’s a major fire when it impacts so many people, animals, watersheds, infrastructure. I do believe it’ll heal; our land was logged 30 years ago and in the 20 years I’ve lived on it, the forest amazes me in its resilience; each year plants come back that find it now hospitable to them; old ones–that sprung up right away, are dying and the newer ones taking their place. That’s some comfort.

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      • wsbob September 6, 2017 at 2:18 am

        “I don’t know anything about the history of fire suppression in the gorge and if the land was carrying an excess load of fuel that would’ve, under totally natural conditions, burned to less severity in the last century. …” laura foster

        I don’t know the history of the gorge either; if and when it was last logged, or what the history of fires there have been. It’s an observable fact though, not just in the gorge but in any woodland area, that such areas over time get thick with brush. Downed branches, dead undergrowth. Until it goes entirely through the decomposition process and back to soil once again…all potential fuel for fires caused either naturally or started by people.

        Controlled burns are controversial, and not universally agreed upon. Should the nation be diong some of this in certain areas the people of this nation have come to regard as sacrosanct natural land? Tough question I ask myself from time to time. Maybe just hand clearing in lieu of controlled burns would suffice, but the task seems huge.

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      • wsbob September 6, 2017 at 7:34 pm

        From the history of the Mt Hood Forest and Mt Hood specifically fireworks related: I think it was the early years of last century when some people got the ‘great’ idea to haul a bunch of fireworks up Mt Hood to Illumination Point on the mountains’ west side near Paradise Park. The idea was to put on a fireworks display that could be seen in Portland. I don’t know much more than that about what happened.

        One other thing I remember about the story, is that despite being on the highest point around, being so far away from the spectators in Portland, the display seemed puny…so the effort was kind of for naught.

        For me, stunts like that fall into the category of general weirdness, and lack of appreciation and understanding of what the natural environment is, and what about it needs to be protected from sometimes thoughtless and destructive human tendencies.

        Hard as rainy dark Oregon winters are for me to deal with, the national weather forecast is for a chance of showers from now through Saturday night…and I’m so hoping rain does happen, which could help slow down the fire.

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    • nmr September 5, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      There’s fuel out there. It will find a way to burn, no matter how beautiful it may be. Forest fires are a fact of life. While this is a huge loss, I see people blaming climate change and that strikes me as ignorant.

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      • Laura O Foster September 5, 2017 at 8:29 pm

        But is the ready availability of fireworks a fact of life? They’re a scourge and should be outlawed except in the hands of licensed pros. Forest fires caused by lightening are part of the natural order. This is unnatural.

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        • Spiffy September 6, 2017 at 10:52 am

          everything that people do could be considered natural as we’re a part of nature… if squirrels caused this fire it’d still be natural…

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          • Dan A September 6, 2017 at 11:28 am

            That definition is too broad and would have no meaning. It basically encompasses everything.

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      • dwk September 5, 2017 at 8:42 pm

        Please tell us why?

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      • Chris I September 5, 2017 at 9:06 pm

        So, drier, warmer summers don’t contribute at all? Fires are a part of life in the west, and we can expect them to happen more frequently in the future. Look at the fire map of Oregon and tell me when you have seen that in your lifetime?

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        • Brian W. September 6, 2017 at 12:11 pm

          Our current situation is complicated, there is not a single factor, but many factors all contributing to the size, frequency and severity of these fires. Climate change, years of rigorous fire suppression, lack of emergency funds/personnel, and probably the decline of commercial lumber harvesting all play a significant part of this. Unfortunately all those things compound over time. In 1902 the 300,000 acre Yacolt Burn started in basically the same drainage that the Eagle Creek Fire started. In 1910 a 3,000,000 acre fire ravaged The western states. Since then we had gotten pretty good at containing small/medium fires, but also those years were wetter and cooler, as time has gone on it has gotten harder and harder to contain these fires. The point being we have a serious recency bias about something that acts on a much larger timeline then most of us can understand. We have been spoiled for the last 90 years because we could relatively control these powerful natural forces. We no longer can in the ways that we have before, and we need to come up with radical new ways to deal with them. In that struggle we will temporarily loose places of great natural beauty and significance, we always will.

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      • Chelsea September 6, 2017 at 5:41 pm

        Forest fires have always occurred and are part of a healthy forest but they are happening with greater frequency than in the past and forests are not able to recover before burning again. If you are actually interested in facts, here ya go:
        https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/11/science/climate-change-forest-fires.html

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    • 9watts September 5, 2017 at 8:46 pm

      “Maybe better than before”

      ?

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      • wsbob September 7, 2017 at 11:55 pm

        watts…what do think what I wrote, means? Seriously…can’t you do better, try a little harder than just leaving a question mark? Some of your own ideas, or something. If you can’t thanks for reading anyway.

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        • 9watts September 9, 2017 at 7:26 am

          Sure.

          I am all for silver linings, look for them at every chance I get, but I thought your notion that in this instance the forest might end up better than before a real stretch. St. Helens took out a lot of forest too in May of 1980. I’ve been back recently, and it is hardly ‘better than before,’ or perhaps you were thinking on the scale of centuries?

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  • mran1984 September 5, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    You lost me forever by feeling sorry for those who should be chemically castrated by their own mothers. I am dead serious. 140 counts of attempted murder, numerous animal deaths, a landscape that will not recover…there is one thing the planet has a surplus of and that is people. Too many people. Another blatant example of how weak the human gene pool has become. Why did someone allow this to occur? People witnessed the action and did not confront it? 2017 has sucked. I am thinking Bowie left at the right time. Beyond sad. They knew what they were doing and this is not the mango morons fault. The lack of assistance will be.

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    • Laura O Foster September 6, 2017 at 5:46 am

      mran1984, my perspective–as someone who when young pulled some boneheaded moves, and whose now-adult kids have too, and have matured beyond that. I guess my feeling sorry for those kids is for their future selves, when they (I hope) are mature enough to grasp the horror of what they did. And per the Willamette Week article on the events, at least one heroic person not only witnessed this, but tracked down law enforcement and urged them to confront the people who did it. Other people had chastised them too, earlier in the day.

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      • Mr. Know It All September 6, 2017 at 4:49 pm

        That’s good that people notified law enforcement, and that some chastised them. One problem today, is that people are afraid to say something when someone is acting badly. They’re afraid they’ll be attacked, or that they’ll be sued, or that the cops will be called on THEM, for doing what a reasonable person would consider the right thing to do. In this instance, if the kids failed to put away the fireworks, adults should have taken them from them and perhaps dunked them in the creek to destroy them (the fireworks, not the kids – 🙂 ). In our liberal world many times the cops will not perform their duties – witness the sanctuary cities where police refuse to do what is right, illegally loud cars running around all over town – police ignore it, politicians committing crimes such as destroying evidence, using their own computer servers to hide crimes, etc – and nothing ever happens to them. Of course if YOU do some of these crimes they’ll throw the book at you, but certain people seem to repeatedly get away with crimes, many times even serious crimes – see the recent 65 y.o. woman assaulted by a repeat criminal let go many times by the police. These are not isolated incidents. I’d be afraid to have physically removed the fireworks from the kids for fear of legal trouble I’d be in for doing it; even though anyone who did it should get a medal.

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    • Chris I September 6, 2017 at 7:30 am

      Unfortunately, we have this pesky thing called The Constitution:

      “Article [VIII] (Amendment 8 – Further Guarantees in Criminal Cases)

      Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

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    • Zimmerman September 6, 2017 at 10:53 am

      A witness did speak up and act to contact authorities when the teenagers didn’t respond to her admonishments.

      Is the desire to judge society before one has all the facts another example of a weak gene pool that needs chemical castration?

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  • Chris I September 6, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Unfortunately, we have this pesky thing called The Constitution:

    “Article [VIII] (Amendment 8 – Further Guarantees in Criminal Cases)

    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

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  • nmr September 6, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Laura O Foster
    But is the ready availability of fireworks a fact of life? They’re a scourge and should be outlawed except in the hands of licensed pros. Forest fires caused by lightening are part of the natural order. This is unnatural.
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    You’re right. But the forest will always burn, it’s inevitable. It literally cannot be stopped. If it’s not fireworks this year, it will be sparks from a train next year, or a fire in WA will jump the Columbia, or a careless smoker, or lightning strike or whichever. It’s like a jenga tower that grows taller every year.

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    • Laura O Foster September 6, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      mmr, all good points and I like your jenga analogy. But still I mourn the fire and its damage, and would’ve if it’d be a lightening strike as well. Humans are tough on the planet, and being confronted with so blatant an example is a pretty stark reminder of that.

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    • Tom September 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      So you would propose handing out free fireworks to all teenagers, in order to keep the jenga towers as flat as possible?
      Either firework use by teens is encouraged or discouraged.

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    • Mr. Know It All September 6, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      nmr

      Fireworks are fine as long as you treat them with respect just like you would any other thing with potential to cause harm like cigarettes, camp stoves, camp fires, the natural appliances in your home, knives, cars, bicycles, baseballs, skate boards, snowboards, etc. There were probably warning signs in the gorge about the fire danger – apparently these kids were not familiar with fire danger, or who knows what got into their heads………probably were looking at their phones and didn’t see any signs about anything………

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      • Mr. Know It All September 6, 2017 at 4:56 pm

        That should have said “natural gas appliances”.

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  • bikeninja September 6, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Many forest biologists have speculated that one of the most dramatic effects of climate change will be a change in the climatic zones where different types of forest ecosystems thrive. Perhaps the temperate douglas fir and hemlock forests of western region could only exist with more summer rainfall and lower temperatures than we have seen this year, or in possible future years. Sadly, this may be our new fate as the forests we have come to know and love are decimated by fire and insects, to eventually be replaced by another more drought and temperature tolerant ecosystem. If we really love these forests, we need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases from all sources starting immediately, not some time in the far off future.

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    • Laura O Foster September 6, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      Exactly! That’s what we’re seeing in the woods up and down our road–and admittedly it’s not uninterrupted stands of trees like in Forest Park, which may be part of what’s happening–our trees are more vulnerable due to their being in isolated islands: Western redcedar and hemlock are dying at alarming rates. We think the ones we’re seeing turn brown and dying this summer were stressed in prior years; so we fear what will happen in the coming years. We are starting to plant more Oregon white oak, a tree which historically hasn’t been on our side of the Tualatain Mountains (except at low elevations), and so far, so good. Also seeing madrona volunteers, which we’d never seen here before. So it’s good to see it evolving. I just hope we don’t get caught in a forest fire while the process is in the works!

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    • Mr. Know It All September 6, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      I did my part today. Didn’t drive anywhere. But I did use some hot water heated with natural gas, but used as little as possible.

      This fire could have happened in many years – it just so happened that this year some irresponsible youngsters came along to start it. The amazing thing is that we have so few fires every summer.

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  • Dan A September 6, 2017 at 10:57 am

    We had a long talk with our boys last night. I don’t think they would ever do something like this, but it’s always possible their friends might….or they might bump into a group on a trail doing something similar. We want them to speak up and stop it, not just sheepishly go along with it and then do nothing to fix the problem afterwards. I think the other participating/watching kids should be held accountable too.

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    • bikeninja September 6, 2017 at 11:44 am

      I am guessing these 15 year old kids did not walk to the trailhead from washington with their fireworks. Whatever adult transported them to the gorge and hauled the illegal fireworks in their vehicle should be held accountable also. I can hope that my boys would never have done this ( they are older now) but I can tell you one thing for sure, I would not have driven them to a tinder dry forest trail with a stash of fireworks on hand.

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      • Chris I September 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm

        I’m guessing that an older teen drove the group (probably in violation of state law). The charges, court cases should be interesting to follow.

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      • Dan A September 6, 2017 at 12:52 pm

        Liz FitzGerald’s account (linked above) seems to indicate that a group (7-9) of teens drove themselves there, and were using smoke balls.

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    • Laura O Foster September 6, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      That is an excellent idea…this is the sort of talk every parent needs to have with preteens.

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  • Laura O Foster September 6, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    bikeninja, Oh geez, I hope a parent wasn’t aware of and condoning the fireworks in the woods scenario. I’d assumed an older kid must’ve driven.

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  • Austin September 6, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    rick
    Fireworks need to be banned in Oregon.
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    People keep saying this, but the kid was from Washington anyway.

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    • Mr. Know It All September 6, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      My guess is that fireworks are banned in Oregon except on a few days like Independence Day. And I’m fairly confident they’d be banned in our forests during dry weather like we have now.

      I have nothing against fireworks. Loved them as a kid. Maybe these were city kids and don’t know about forest fire danger.

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  • huh September 6, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    i am usually the self involved heartless type who cannot be bothered with natural / manmade disasters but this fire incident has really hit me in the feels. these contributors to this phenomenal level of damage and wanton destruction are the literal worst.

    Book ’em, Danno.

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  • wsbob September 8, 2017 at 12:19 am

    I scanned the O story headlines tonight, read a couple of the stories about the Eagle Creek fire. Currently, the O reports that the fire is just 5 percent contained. Imagine that, and being a firefighter confined to the area and breathing the level of smoke there as they do the work of containing the fire. National Weather forecast is not predicting any precip until middle of next week, and then just showers.

    Didn’t read the story, but there was one reporting that people are calling the 15 yr old suspect to held accountable for what he did, if it’s proven he did start the fire. Hold him accountable, how? What kind of person is he? With the amount of life experience and adult guidance a person can have at 15, did he know the danger of what he was doing? Truly so? Some people at that age, do know about such things. Others don’t, or not very well.

    If he’s guilty, what’s the best approach to have other people including teenagers, kids and adults, consciously act to avoid doing things that start forest fires?

    I would have been encouraged some if it had been reported that so and so, (suspect’s name has not been released to the public.), upon realizing his fireworks fun and games got a blaze going, stayed around and tried to put it out. And after realizing it was going to take many more people than himself to do the job, insisted that he stay on the fire line and swing the hand tools with everyone else there working to contain this fire.

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    • Mr. Know It All September 8, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      Can the fire fighters access the higher elevation areas via a road or do they have to hike in? I’m assuming it burned the Ruckel Creek trail and the Ruckel Ridge trail – those are very steep trails to be hauling tools up/down while wearing heavy firefighter clothing. Ditto many of the other trails where the fire is burning. Wonder if they could use motorcycles to go up? Would have to be good riders to make it, but if you could, it would make it easier and faster. Hopefully there’s a road at the top somewhere. I do remember a road above Waukeena Falls near Devil’s Point so that should not be a problem – and there is the highway going to Sherrard Point on Larch Mountain. Once a fire got started on the steep slopes, it’d be very difficult to stop it – only a direct hit from a huge load of water or fire retardant would probably do the job – maybe they need the supertanker……….

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    • Mr. Know It All September 8, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      It would be interesting to know how many fire danger signs, no fireworks signs, etc were located at the beginning of the Eagle Creek trail. That trail gets hundreds of people every day on a weekend – many of them know nothing about forest fires. I’ll bet there were few signs, if any. Need to have several signs at the beginning of all trails giving instruction on no cutting switchbacks, littering, smoking, using fireworks or campfires, etc for those people who just don’t know better.

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