RAINBOW, Ore. - One moment, Robert Noble and his son relaxed in the natural hot pools of Terwilliger Hot Spring.
The next, they ran for their lives through smoke and flames August 19 as a wildfire swept through the popular destination.
“The angle of that mountain and how quickly the fire was going, I knew it was going to get big," he recalled August 20, a day after escaping what would become the 11,000-acre Terwilliger Fire. “I figure I probably took the last picture ever taken at Cougar Hot Springs.”
Firefighters had to focus on fighting the fire before they could take stock of what had happened to the hot springs.
But last week, crews found the kiosk and sign at the trailhead had survived the fire.
And just this weekend - nearly a month after Noble and his son held towels over their faces to cope with smoke and flames gushing across the trail - a special team from the McKenzie River Ranger District has visited the springs themselves to gauge the damage done there.
"The fire burned through the springs with varying levels of severity," the USDA Forest Service said on Facebook. "Approximately five burned trees that pose the most imminent danger of falling and further damaging the springs and the rock work constructed around them, were felled. Only the minimum number of staff needed to do this work are entering the area due to the myriad of fire hazards that remain in the vicinity of the springs and along Aufderheide Scenic Byway (Forest Service Road 19)."
The Terwilliger Fire is the latest barrier to accessing the popular springs to interupt the public's use of the serene spot.
A rockslide last December cut the springs off from the nearest major road until late July, just weeks before the fire broke out.
The springs were also closed to the public in 2017 as wildfires raged in the area.