By: Ralph Bloemers, Crag Law Center
The Eagle Creek Fire burned in a mosaic pattern, only 17% burned hot, and over 50% of the area within the fire perimeter was unburned.
The fires burning throughout the West in recent summers has captured the public’s attention, heightened the call for solutions and resulted in proposals to eliminate environmental safeguards and open up our public lands to more logging. Increased awareness of climatic changes, including heat waves in the Pacific Northwest have further heightened tensions and a feeling of vulnerability to natural disasters. Recent winters have delivered record amounts of rainfall and severe winter storms, and summers have been marked by the longest recorded periods without significant rainfall, leading to very dry conditions in our forests. The wildfire season in the West has lengthened from an average of five to seven months, and the number of large fires over 1,000 acres has nearly doubled. Within this we wonder how our treasured forests are natural areas, parks and forests are doing, and what we can do to protect our communities.
Emerging Gorgeous after the Fire
Since the Eagle Creek fire burned in the Columbia River Gorge late in the summer of 2017, Ralph has spent countless hours visiting and talking with people in the communities directly affected by the fire. He has visited fire burned areas from the air and on the ground. While the firefighters fought valiantly to defend homes in Cascade Locks, Hood River and Corbett from the fire, it was ultimately the weather – heavy rain and no wind – that put the fire out. The media described the fire as consuming nearly 50,000-acre of forests, yet experts have surveyed the forests from the air and the ground and determined that only 17% (approximately 8,000 acres) burned at high intensity. And the burned forests were not destroyed; instead they are now a free-for-all for young animals and plants to thrive.
Many of our treasured trails have been seriously impacted, and remain closed. Over the past year, Ralph has joined trail crews organized by the Pacific Crest Trail Association and Trailkeepers of Oregon to rebuild fire damaged trails. While the trails are in need of significant repair, the forests around them are alive and well. Trail crews have enjoyed lots of wildflowers and wildlife and have spent significant effort clearing back new vegetation from the trails.
Since the fire, Ralph has visited historical museums and dug through the archives to find photos and document the extent of fires in the Gorge, in the Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Hood National Forests. And, he has worked with a National Geographic filmmaker to document the prolific and rapid emergence of new plants after the fire through time-lapse cameras that we have set to take a handful of photos every single day since the fire was extinguished.
Please join us for a visual journey into the past and see how the amazing forests of the Gorge and Mt. Hood have burned and emerged gorgeous. See into the future through the lens of recently burned forests that now provide fields of wildflowers, new homes for wildlife and opened up amazing vistas. Fire stimulates the forests, and this engaging all ages presentation will feature historic photography of old burns and the view today, from the same location. We will travel to recently burned forests, share new time lapse showing the flush of new growth, flyover the mosaic fire patterns in the Gorge and learn the Best Kept Secrets about fire.
What a difference seven months makes! Time lapse cameras capture the prolific recovery of the forests after the Eagle Creek fire near Cascade Locks.
Photo Credit: Ralph Bloemers, Crag Law Center
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