No, Really: Another Group of Teenagers Set Off Fireworks and Probably Ignited a Blaze Along the Columbia River This Week


Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks to press at the scene of the Eagle Creek Fire on Sept. 6. (Thomas Teal)

You just can't learn some folks.

More teenagers with fireworks are suspected in igniting another blaze in the Columbia River Gorge this week, this one closer to civilization.

Hood River Police say a resident called late Tuesday night to report "juveniles" with a dark-colored pickup truck setting off aerial fireworks near Horizon School on Pacific Avenue.

Five minutes later, at 10:30 p.m., someone reported a brush fire burning less than a mile away from the school on the Indian Creek Trail between 3rd and 5th Streets. The fire was reported earlier this week by news outlets including KGW-TV.

The brush fire was contained within a few hours and before it reached two acres. But it comes less than two weeks after a 15-year-old set off fireworks that likely caused the Eagle Creek fire. Since Sept. 2, the wildfire has burned more than 35,000 acres and four homes.

Hood River Police Chief Neal Holste said the fears of local residents are "heightened by the Eagle Creek Fire because it is burning in their backyards." But she said the two incidents aren't comparable.

Colette Todorov, a belly dance instructor who lives up the street from where the brush fire burned, said her 12-year-old daughter was asleep and she was just getting into bed when she heard a knock at the door. It was "really unusual because the neighborhood is quiet and no one is out past 10:30," Todorov recalled. She opened the front door to her neighbor from across the street who told her: "The hillside is burning."

Todorov saw flames and sparks lapping up behind the trees separating her street from the Indian Creek hillside. Fire engines, sheriffs, and police officers filled her block as neighbors moved their cars to other streets and rushed to remove precious items from their homes.

"The smoke was really bad," Todorov said, "but they quickly got the flames down."

Todorov did not hear about the juveniles allegedly shooting off fireworks until the next morning. “It is unbelievable that that was going on after everything that has happened and the extent of the [Eagle Creek Fire] and all the damage and all the resources we’re having to use to try and control it,” Todorov said.

Related: Teenagers tossing fireworks into Columbia River Gorge "found it funny to do this."

Todorov added that Hood River residents are concerned because many people have friends or coworkers that are under level 3 evacuation orders. Some people she knows, Todorov said with a catch in her voice, “work with kids who live in Cascade Locks being bussed in from hotels so they can go to school.”

The incident is still under active investigation, says Holste. Police combed the burn area after it was safe to enter, around 2 am. Police also searched the area near the Horizon school in which residents reported the kids setting off fireworks. However, "that doesn't necessarily mean they caused the fire," Holste said.

A reminder: The Oregon Department of Forestry has designated Hood River as under "extreme" fire danger. Use of fireworks, illegal or otherwise, is prohibited. Oregon law prohibits any fireworks that travel more than 12 inches in the air.

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