HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) — Crews helped rescue more than 100 hikers stranded in the mountains overnight after a wildfire closed their trail and they were trapped between two blazes.
The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday afternoon that the final group of hikers left the Wahtum Lake area at the bottom of the trail and were headed by bus to meet with their friends and family.
Deputy Joel Ives says no hikers were missing but one hiker was taken out by ambulance for exhaustion and dehydration.
Many of the hikers had gone up the Eagle Creek Trail on Saturday to swim at the popular waterfalls and pools, but a fire broke out near the Columbia River Gorge trail about 90 miles (144 kilometers) east of Portland. The blaze was burning on the Eagle Creek Trail, and the only other way out was longer and more difficult, and it was getting dark, so officials told them to spend the night near Tunnel Falls. Mountain Wave Search and Rescue dropped supplies to the hikers. A portion of the Eagle Creek Trail had been closed for weeks because of another fire that erupted July 4.
Mountain Wave president Russ Gubele says search and rescue teams headed up the second trail on Sunday morning and led the hikers out the 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) toward Wahtum Lake.
“It’s horribly smoky,” Gubele said. “Ash is coming down. It’s like a Mount Saint Helens eruption all over again.”
On Saturday, 14 hikers were brought out and returned to Eagle Creek and three hikers were rescued by National Guard helicopter.
Authorities say the wildfire had grown to almost 5 square miles (13 square kilometers) by Sunday. The U.S. Forest Service says the wildfire was human-caused and is under investigation by the Oregon State Police.
About 130 homes in Cascade Locks were under evacuation orders because of the flames. A Red Cross shelter was set up at the Skamania County Fairgrounds, across the Columbia River in Stevenson, Washington.