Teenagers Accused of Starting the Portland Wildfire That’s Destroying a Beloved Hiking Trail
According to a witness, the teens laughed as they tossed firecrackers during the drought.
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.”
As of Thursday morning, the fire was only 5 percent contained, according to The Oregonian.