via YouTube

According to a witness, the teens laughed as they tossed firecrackers during the drought.

Jess McHugh
September 07, 2017

Oregon State Police have accused teenagers who were playing with firecrackers of starting a wildfire near Portland that has torn through the area, consuming more than 10,000 acres.

The teens were tossing smoke bombs and other firecrackers near Eagle Creek Trail, starting the blaze that has now destroyed at least one home and sent ash spewing over parts of the city of Portland, Oregon.

Local resident Liz FitzGerald described seeing the teenagers throwing the firecrackers as she hiked up the trail. The teenagers were laughing as they took video of each other. She tried to warn them of the severity of their actions, as an adjacent fire burned nearby, she recounted to Willamette Week.

“Do you realize how dangerous it is what you just did? They have the trail closed up ahead because of a raging wildfire,” she said she told them.

As she walked up the trail she saw more smoke building, and eventually turned around to warn park rangers of the danger. By the time she reached the bottom of the trail, the smoke had become a blaze, and the teenagers appeared to show no remorse.

“I felt like I was having a nightmare and I still feel like I am because they had no reaction that I could see,” she said in the same account.

The Eagle Creek fire merged with another fire and has now destroyed 31,000 acres, while forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate, CNN reported. Dry conditions and 30- to 40-mile-per-hour winds fueled the blaze, Gov. Kate Brown told reporters at a news conference.

Eagle Creek is part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, a hiking region that is beloved to many, including writer of “Wild” fame, Cheryl Strayed.

“I’ve watched with horror and heartbreak as the beautiful wilderness of the Columbia River Gorge has burned over these past several days,” Strayed wrote in a post on Instagram, calling it a “tremendous loss.”

I’ve watched with horror and heartbreak as the beautiful wilderness of the Columbia River Gorge has burned over these past several days. It’s still burning. Still expanding. Still raging into more beauty and life. The fire has decimated, among many other things, the trail and forest along Eagle Creek that I wrote about in the final chapter of Wild. It was ignited (by fireworks, lit and lobbed into the brush by a group of teenagers) very near the spot where I slept on the final night of my hike. I remember waking at dawn that last day on the trail and lying on my tarp, staring at the silhouettes of the endless, enormous trees against the morning sky and thinking, This. I will always have this. Those trees are dead now. That forest won’t return to its full bloom again in my lifetime. So many of my friends in real life and on social media have written about how devastated they feel about this fire. Lots of us consider the Columbia River Gorge our sacred ground—one friend called it her church. My heart is with you. So many people have spent hours and days working to fight this fire and to help the people and animals directly impacted by it, and also to protect the buildings in its ever-shifting path. My gratitude to you for your service and sacrifice. So many people have asked me to write about the fire and I can’t yet. I need to think a good while about what the loss of those trees means to me and to us—us in the Portland area, us in the Pacific Northwest, us in the United States, us in the world. It means something, but it’s too fresh for me to express yet what it is. I can’t spin it into metaphor or meaning; can’t claim that it’s anything but what it feels to me to be right now: a tremendous loss, wrapped around the realization that I was wrong. We won’t always have this.

A post shared by Cheryl Strayed (@cherylstrayed) on

As of Thursday morning, the fire was only 5 percent contained, according to The Oregonian.

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