Hundreds evacuate as wildfire grows near Portland

Several agencies and fire districts are fighting the 20,000-acre fire.                        U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Coast Guard has closed the Columbia River to all vessel traffic east of Portland, Oregon, because of wildfire activity in the Columbia River Gorge. Hamilton expects I-84 to be closed for most of Tuesday.

Firefighters have spent days trying to contain the Eagle Creek fire alongside Oregon's Columbia River, but as of Tuesday morning, containment was still at 0 percent, according to InciWeb.

In western Montana, where a statewide fire disaster was declared last week, the Rice Ridge Fire near Sealey Lake has grown into one of the largest blazes in the state, charring more than 108,000 acres (43,700 hectares) since lightning sparked it on July 24, officials said.

The fire initially trapped more than 140 hikers near Eagle Creek. The cause is unknown.

Firefighters battling that blaze were making it a priority to safeguard the ancient grove of giant sequoia and a pair of historic cabins at the foot of the trees, fire spokeswoman Anne Grandy said.

"It was just too smoky over there", Gunn said.

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Numerous 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 east of Portland.

Around the same time, the Hood River County Sheriff's Office said all prior Level 1 evacuation notices in Cascade Locks have been upgraded to Level 2, meaning to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Authorities told them to "shelter in place", so they hunkered down near Tunnel Falls for an unplanned night in the wilderness with a heavy layer of smoke for a blanket.

This investigation is being conducted jointly by the Oregon State Police, US Forest Service, Hood River Sheriff's Office, Hood River District Attorney's Office and fire personnel.

The fire has burned between 50 and 100 acres since it broke out at about 1 p.m. on Saturday. 'Ash is coming down.

BNSF Railway trains on the Washington side of the Columbia River briefly shut down Tuesday morning.

People in OR covered their faces with scarves to keep choking ash from wildfires from filling their lungs and wiped the soot from windshields, similar to what long-time residents said they had to do in 1980 during the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens. Evacuation orders remain for 283 structures, including 15 businesses.

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