Trespassers entering Columbia Gorge areas closed after fire
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Trespassers continue to venture into areas closed after a Columbia River Gorge wildfire to get to nature attractions despite dangers, Oregon authorities said.
Authorities have handed out $280 trespassing citations to 49 people and let hundreds go with a warning, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Half of the citations were issued after the Multnomah Falls Lodge reopened in late November, they said.
Authorities put up a fence and closed off trails after the blaze, which began in early September and burned nearly 77 square miles (200 square kilometers).
The fence has not stopped some from trekking to a lower viewing platform to look at the falls, said Rachel Pawlitz, spokeswoman for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
Authorities have verbally warned almost 600 people about trespassing since Sept. 19, according to numbers provided Wednesday by Pawlitz.
Other hot spots for trespassers include Eagle Creek and Larch Mountain, she added.
Although the fire is 100 percent contained, Pawlitz said authorities saw smoldering stumps as recently as December.
Hazards such as landslides, falling trees and tumbling rocks exists, officials said.
There are also logjams that have formed on the streams and above waterfalls that can bursts and flash flood or rockfall threats, Pawlitz said.
Search and rescue efforts would be expensive and dangerous, authorities said.
The area is considered so dangerous that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office’s Green Hornet trail rescue team has yet to train there, said Lt. Marc Shrake, the agency’s spokesman.
The lower Multnomah Falls viewing platform is expected to reopen early this year and the Benson Bridge may be reopen in the summer.
Some trails at the center of the burn could be closed for up to five years, Pawlitz said.
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com