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Surging Wildfire Reaches Watershed For Portland Area's Drinking Water


Officials say the Eagle Creek Fire entered the Bull Run watershed Tuesday.

The watershed provides drinking water for around 1 million Oregonians.

“At this time, the fire is not near the drinking water reservoirs or water supply infrastructure,” said Jaymee Cuti, public information officer for the Portland Water Bureau.

The watershed is on 100 square miles of protected federal forest south of the Columbia River Gorge. It is the primary source of drinking water for Portland and many of its largest suburbs, including Gresham and Beaverton.

Nicole Adams, a spokeswoman for the Water Bureau, said at a press conference Tuesday that the fire is still miles away from the critical infrastructure at Bull Run, including two reservoirs and dams.

“The Water Bureau has authorized the (U.S.) Forest Service to do water drops using Blue Lake and any other resources besides the reservoirs … to do whatever fire suppression efforts they need to do,” she said.

Adams said if necessary, the bureau can switch to its back up drinking water supply — a system of wells along the Columbia River. 

Officials advise that water from the Bull Run watershed is still safe to drink.

“The bureau will continue to monitor water quality and will respond to any changes in full coordination with the joint fire command,” Cuti said in a statement.

The Eagle Creek Fire has grown to more than 10,000 acres and is zero percent contained.

Police said Tuesday that a 15-year-old boy from Vancouver, Washington is a suspect in the case. They believe he and others may have started the fire by playing with fireworks near the Eagle Creek trailhead.

No arrests had been made, nor charges filed, as of Tuesday afternoon.

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