A 15-year-old from Vancouver, Washington, will face charges for allegedly starting the Eagle Creek fire in Oregon, which burned nearly 50,000 acres of the scenic Columbia River Gorge. The teen, whose identity has not been released, was seen tossing firecrackers into the woods near Punchbowl Falls. He was arraigned in Hood River County Circuit Court Thursday, and could face misdemeanor charges of reckless burning, depositing burning materials on forest lands, unlawful fireworks possession, criminal mischief, and reckless endangerment. Hood River County District Attorney John Sewell says he will be charged as a juvenile.
In the aftermath of the fire, which was only 50 percent contained as of this week and has cost the U.S. Forest Service nearly $20 million to manage, popular tourist destination Multnomah Falls has been closed indefinitely. Full containment of the fire is expected by the end of November.
The Forest Service also warns of potential land and rock slides as winter rains begin.
“One of the biggest risks to the visitors here is the combined effect of the moss having burned off which was a glue holding it together, and the freezing and thawing effect over the winter which will just create cracks in the rock,” Forest Service representative Rachel Pawlitz told the Northwest News Network. “Those two things together will just cause rocks to peel off the side of the cliff and fall at intervals that we can’t predict.”
The Eagle Creek Fire forced numerous evacuations, shut down I-84 for weeks, rained ash on Portland, and threatened the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge. Despite the massive damage, forestry experts say it could have been far worse.
Parents, don't let your kids grow up to be firebugs.