Firefighters eagerly anticipate rain as Eagle Creek Fire continues to grow

Back burn near Cascade Locks - Crews are working to contain the Eagle Creek Fire, a human-caused fire burning thousands of acres in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge and threatening several natural landmarks. (Photo taken by Chris Liedle on September 10, 2017)

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. – The Eagle Creek Fire is still growing. Oregon fire officials said the wildfire is spreading the most on the southern and western edge of the fire’s perimeter.

At a news briefing Saturday morning, Lt. Damon Simmons from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office said the fire is moving slowly on the south side. Resources will focus their efforts on the south and west sides of the fire Saturday.

Simmons said the Eagle Creek Fire is currently 45,579 acres and 32 percent contained.

Fire officials said smoke and flames may be visible as unburned areas within the fire’s perimeter begin to catch fire.

Thankfully, temperatures will remain cool over the weekend and firefighters look forward to rain Sunday afternoon and evening.

Although the rain will help fire suppression efforts, crews are concerned it could cause mudslides or landslides in the burn area.

A hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey said the Columbia River Gorge is already prone to landslides.

Now that trees and brush in the area are burned, the soil is more likely to shift when it’s wet.

"I think everyone's excited about the chance of rain. We want just enough, but not too much," Simmons said.

Helicopters will continue dropping water on the fire Saturday. Windy conditions could activate the fire in the Bell Creek drainage.

Firefighters will continue mop up efforts along the I-84 corridor. They will also reinforce lines on the east side of the fire.

Oregon State Fire Marshal task forces will continue their efforts to protect structures from the fire.

Saturday evening into Sunday, the winds are expected to shift to the southwest as a cold front moves into the area.

The Red Cross Shelter remains open for evacuees in Hood River.

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