“I’d rather fight 100 structure fires than a wildfire. With a structure fire you know where your flames are, but in the woods it can move anywhere; it can come right up behind you.” -Tom Watson
On September 2nd, a group of teenagers were lighting fireworks in the Columbia Gorge near Eagle Creek. They would light them and attempt to throw them into the river, playing a game of “let’s try to almost-but-not-quite commit devastating arson.” Guess how that game ended? With a catastrophic wildfire that, four days later, now engulfs over 10,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people, creating millions in damage, and threatening the city of Portland, OR.
It’s not just the spark that caused this devastation, but rather the conditions that set it up. Extremely wet, rainy winters and spring lead to a tremendous amount of new plant growth, while the hot, dry summers have turned that growth into potential fuel. Add oxygen, which is free and abundant, and a single spark, and a fast-spreading fire ensues. Throw in the winds inherent to the gorge, and an 80-mile stretch is already up in flames.