Good News: Multnomah Falls is Still Green and Mostly Unscathed, and the Columbia River Gorge Wildfire Could Help Wildlife “Flourish”

Fires are necessary, natural occurrences in areas like the Columbia River Gorge, officials say, and the Eagle Creek Fire could benefit wild animal and plant populations.

Portland firefighters at Multnomah Falls on Sept. 6, 2017. (Multnomah County Search and Rescue)

Despite burning for days, torching more than 30,000 acres and obscuring most of the area with thick smoke, the Eagle Creek fire has left some parts of the Columbia River Gorge intact and will potentially improve wildlife populations.

As the ash begins to settle in some areas burned by the fire started on Sept. 2, photos are revealing parts of the gorge that look to be untouched by the flames. Firefighters posed in front of Multnomah Falls on Wednesday morning to celebrate keeping the picturesque spot safe from the blaze.

A press pool was given a tour of the site this afternoon. The falls remain mostly green and covered in firs, although some of those trees are burned at the base and in danger of falling.

Firefighters battled Monday night and Tuesday morning to keep the almost century-old lodge at Multnomah Falls standing. On Wednesday, the falls, the iconic bridge along the trail, and the surrounding trees and plants appeared to be intact despite flames that came dangerously close to burning the treasured hiking destination.

Anatomy of an inferno: How the Columbia River Gorge wildfire raced out of control.

Another pleasant surprise comes from officials at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who offer assurances that the fire will probably not cause lasting damage to wildlife—and may even improve some animal populations.

The Columbia River Gorge on Tuesday, Sept. 5. (Daniel Stindt)

"Fire is a natural process and wildlife evolved with fire," says ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy in an email. "Some animals will perish in the fire, some will evade it, but for the most part, populations will not be impacted long-term. In fact, some populations may flourish and exceed pre-fire numbers with the positive ecological functions following a fire."

Because wildfires occur naturally, Dennehy said most of the animals and plants in the gorge have adapted to bounce back after a fire.

Boundary of Eagle Creek Fire on Wednesday, Sept. 6. (U.S. Forest Service)

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