I’ll be talking about these maps on the evening newscasts but want to get it online as well. The Eagle Creek Fire “Burn Area Emergency Response Team” has released a survey of fire impacts to the vegetation & soil in the Gorge. The results are contained in a large map here:
I’ve zoomed in on several areas so you can take a close look at your favorite hiking destinations or routes. Of course you would probably like a legend to go with the map…
This from the BAER folks:
“High burn severity is indicated by the burning of all or nearly all of the ground cover and surface organic matter (leaves, needles, and decaying plant matter), including fine roots. Moderate burn severity has consumption of up to 80% of the ground cover. In areas with low burn severity, much of the organic matter on the surface is not fully burned and roots are generally intact.
The higher the burn severity is, the less likely the soil is able to absorb water from rainfall and snow melt. Severely damaged soils will produce more and faster water runoff. They are also more prone to erosion and landslides”
I notice a few things…real intense burn around Franklin Ridge & Oneonta Gorge. But much of the far western edge of the fire was in the low to very low category otherwise. But check out the red throughout the Tanner & Eagle Creek canyons. That’s pretty bad and in that area the fire moved many miles south of the Gorge. Once you get to the eastern end of the fire from Herman Creek to Mt. Defiance the intensity was lower again. This may be because this area burned last, just before the heavy rain finished off the fire. Temperatures were a bit cooler and westerly wind generally brings a bit higher humidity; that can possibly reduce fire intensity.
I took a drive through the Gorge (as far as Cascade Locks) last weekend and again yesterday. After seeing video of the fire on the 4th and 5th one would think there would be almost nothing left. That is most definitely not the case. It looks the same as it did before; just a little…different. I’ve got 3 observations for you:
1) Lots of burned brush below mainly green fir trees…this is a common sight. Some of that tree bark is black a good 20 feet up. That will be a reminder of the fire for a few decades to come. In these areas new greenery will pop up by next April/May.
2) On many of the high ridges you can see burned trees without the needles so the forest up there looks a little “thin”.
3) Nowhere did I see a totally bare landscape, except the upper part of Angel’s Rest with just a few “toothpick” trees sticking up. Remember that’s one spot that burned over in the 1991 Falls Fire too. Once the trail opens up there will be even more views to appreciate.
Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen