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Historic Columbia River Highway likely closed through Thursday due to wildfire

Fire in Columbia River Gorge - Chopper 2 photo.jpg

CORBETT, Ore.— A small wildfire is burning on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, closing access to some popular hiking trails.

The fire was first reported about 7 p.m. Tuesday along the Historic Columbia River Highway near Ainsworth State Park. Witnesses reported seeing flames in the Oneonta Gorge.

Corbett Fire arrived first, but turned over duties to the U.S. Forest Service, which has contracted a helicopter to help douse the flames. Twenty firefighters are on the ground, but the location of the fire, on a steep cliff face, is making efforts to put it out difficult. The fire was estimated at about 1/2 acre as of Wednesday.

KATU News talked with one hiker Tuesday night who said the fire was causing problems for people who had parked in the area to go hiking.

“After about a couple of hours rocks started to fall on to some of the cars, not very big ones at first, one about the size of a football barely missed a beige Tahoe,” hiker Calvin Moore said.

The highway closure begins just east of Multnomah Falls and continues until Ainsworth State Park, closing 3.5 miles of that roadway.

The closure prevents access to two popular hiking spots: Oneonta Falls and Horsetail Falls.

ODOT confirmed Wednesday morning that multiple rocks had fallen onto the highway, making for dangerous conditions.

The U.S. Forest Service the closure will likely continue through Thursday because of ongoing firefighting efforts and the danger of more debris falling from the cliff where the fire is burning.

Two hikers Wednesday morning were not swayed by the road closure. They ventured beyond it on foot and got up to Horsetail Falls before sunrise.

“We didn’t see any smoke or anything. We smelled a little bit coming down, but other than that there really wasn’t anything," said Maddy Getz.

Investigators are working to find out what sparked the fire.

Fire concerns could increase this week with dry conditions, warmer temperatures and gusty winds in the forecast.

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