The Columbia Gorge is aflame, and the smoke from Eagle Creek has mixed its way (along with smoke from other fires burning in the region) into Eastern Oregon.
Although the view is hazy and the air quality abysmal, it's quite clear that the massive blaze was started with fireworks illegally set on the Mt. Hood National Forest. According to witnesses, a group of teenagers casually tossed smoke bombs and fireworks into the steep valley beneath beautiful Punch Bowl Falls. A surprise to no one with a brain, the dry September brush caught fire. That fire soon got bigger, and by the time of this writing had grown to more than 10,000 acres. Thousands of people were evacuated, many homes were in danger, and so were historic buildings like the Multnomah Falls Lodge. That's not to mention the environmental damage in a place like Eagle Creek, which is a haven for salmon and steelhead and other wildlife. Oh, and there is the recreational damage done to one of the most beautiful and most-used hikes in the Gorge.
Damage, damage, and more damage.
Even though most of our readers are well aware, this is a critical time to remind Oregonians of the dangers of fireworks. And a drive or hike through the Gorge for the next decade should be a reminder each and every time we pass: Don't use fireworks in Oregon's forests. Bad things will happen. You may be held criminally and financially responsible.
We must make it perfectly clear to those who have long lived in and loved this state, and those who are new arrivals, that it is never OK to use fireworks on public land. Parents must instill that in their children. Lighting fireworks in Oregon forests must be culturally verboten — it cannot be something that crosses the mind of even the most rebellious teenager. We have too much at stake, spend too much money, time and energy trying to keep Oregon as beautiful and environmentally pure as possible to have it all go up in smoke by one careless hand.
Oregon could consider banning fireworks. Sale, possession and use. If an outright ban is a bridge too far, then perhaps consider hiking taxes high enough that we can continue hiking in a green Oregon. Shouldn't fireworks be taxed immensely to pay for the cost of fighting the fires that result from them?
We're as red-blooded, Fourth of July-firework loving Americans as you'll find from sea to shining sea. But if you love this country, and you love this state, wouldn't you show it by not setting it on fire?