EarthFix

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The Chetco Bar Fire is now burning more than 175,000 acres in the mountains near the coastal Oregon town of Brookings. The good news is that a break in the weather fueled by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lidia should give fire crews a chance to catch up.

Southwest Oregon has seen months of high temperatures and little-to-no rain, creating ripe conditions for fire starts. One of the ways fire managers determine how fire-prone an area is, is a measure called the energy release component, or ERC. 

When the Eagle Creek Fire blew up over Labor Day weekend, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said officials used every available resource to fight it.

The fire quickly doubled in size, and evacuation orders soon followed. People forced to leave the Columbia River Gorge city of Cascade Locks questioned the speed of the initial fire response.

Gov. Brown disagreed with the suggestion that firefighters were slow to react to the fast-growing blaze in the Gorge.

"Absolutely not," Brown responded. "We put all the resources we had on the fire, as quickly as possible."

Washington state’s guidelines for fish farms include things like where they should be located and how many fish can be farmed in how much water. These guidelines are more than three decades old: they date back to 1986.

“We know that the old recommendations are out of date,” says Department of Ecology spokesperson Curt Hart.

Wildfires have consumed more than a half-million acres in Oregon so far this year. That number includes blazes on both public and privately-owned land. According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, roughly 528,000 acres have burned so far, with more than a dozen uncontained wildfires still active in Oregon.

Ron Graham is the Deputy Chief of the Fire Protection Division of the Oregon Department of Forestry. He says that number will likely grow, because it could be several more weeks until wildfires subside in a meaningful way.

As flames from the Eagle Creek Fire pushed closer to the Columbia River, Oregon officials had a quick decision to make.

The Fish and Wildlife hatcheries in the fire’s path housed six million fish, mostly chinook and coho salmon and steelhead.

And some of those fish were in trouble.

“Their water source, which at the time was Tanner Creek at Bonneville Hatchery, was literally engulfed in flames. The hatchery intake on the creek got clogged up, and we weren’t able to get water to the fish,” said Ken Loffink, a spokesman for ODFW.

UPDATE (6:56 p.m. PST): The human-caused Eagle Creek Fire — which exploded in growth Monday evening and jumped the Columbia River to ignite a Washington fire early Tuesday — slowed its movement westward early Wednesday as winds shifted, leaving it a few miles east of Crown Point.

A Portland woman says the young hikers suspected of starting a fire now consuming the Columbia River Gorge giggled as one threw a firecracker into Eagle Creek Canyon.

One suspect has been identified as a 15-year-old male from Vancouver, Washington. Oregon State Police spokesman Bill Fugate said if charged, the suspect could face the same state charges as an adult. Fugate said OSP will release the suspect's name if and when charges are filed. It is believed he and others may have been using fireworks which started the forest fire along the Eagle Creek Trail. 

UPDATED (10:55 a.m. PST): The Eagle Creek Fire jumped the Columbia River Gorge overnight, sparking a smaller fire on the Washington side of the river Tuesday morning according to the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office.

 Cascade Locks remained eerily quiet Monday morning.

No gas. No food. Businesses along the main drag were either closed or forced to evacuate.

The perpetual scent of fire, the sun's rays muted by smoke, and the occasional drizzle of ash greeted visitors to the town as the Eagle Creek Fire continued to burn about a mile away, threatening hundreds of homes and other structures.

As of Monday morning, the human-caused wildfire was about 3,200 acres, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. That marks a small increase from what officials reported Sunday.  

Advocates are worried that Trump administration policy changes will damage the ability of national parks to deal with climate change.

Studies show climate change could have serious impacts on national parks in the Northwest.

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