Think Out Loud

Historic Timberline Lodge closed after Thursday night fire

By Gemma DiCarlo (OPB) and Sheraz Sadiq (OPB)
April 19, 2024 6:18 p.m.

Broadcast: Friday, April 19

Crews attempt to extinguish a fire in the attic of Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Ore., on April 18. The fire was extinguished early Friday morning and no injuries were reported.

Crews attempt to extinguish a fire in the attic of Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Ore., on April 18. The fire was extinguished early Friday morning and no injuries were reported.

Courtesy of Clackamas Fire District


Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, Oregon, is closed until further notice following a fire Thursday night. The surrounding Timberline ski area is also closed Friday. Clackamas Fire officials have reported that everyone evacuated from the building safely. We get more details on the fire and the extent of the damage from John Burton, director of marketing and public relations for Timberline Lodge.

Note: The lodge reopened to guests on Sunday, April 21. The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.

Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. We start today with last night’s fire at the iconic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Firefighters from four agencies battled the three-alarm fire at the WPA-era building. There were no reported injuries. The lodge and the ski resort are closed today. For more on what happened and how extensive the damage is, I’m joined by John Burton. He is the director of marketing and public relations for Timberline Lodge. John, thanks for making some time for us today.

John Burton: Happy to be here, and thanks for having us.

Miller:  Let’s start with the timeline. When did the fire start?

Burton: It was reported at about 9:30 last night, discovered by a Timberline employee. The hotel was immediately evacuated without injury or incident shortly after the first responders showed up. And at approximately 11 p.m., the fire was extinguished and then at approximately 2 a.m., the mission, if you will, was concluded with the first responders.

Miller: How many people were staying at the lodge last night? I’m just curious what the evacuation was like. For people who haven’t been there, it’s a big, wonderfully rambling place, but I imagine maybe a complicated place to get people out of.

Burton: Well, to answer your first question, we had about 120 guests in the hotel last night, but it should be known that we do have processes that we do practice for incidents like this. This is a first-time deal like this for us, at Timberline and it went remarkably well and I can’t say enough about the service that our staff performed last night. It was exemplary, and we extend the greatest amount of gratitude.

Miller:  Where did everybody end up going? I mean, you’re up there on the south slope, up an access road before you’d even get to a place like Government Camp or go down towards Warm Springs, or towards Portland. Where did folks go?

Burton: That’s right. We sheltered folks in the day lodge across the parking lot, initially. A lot of folks that had their vehicles ready to go simply left, and then the folks that were not able to leave immediately, we have arrangements with the hotel down the mountain and we put everybody down there last night.

Miller: Let’s talk about the fire itself. Where was it? And do you have a sense yet – have investigators given you a sense for how it started?


Burton: Investigations are expected to conclude any time, and right now it’s suspected that embers from the fireplace, the main fireplace in the head house, ignited the roof. The fire did not penetrate to the interior of the hotel. So, we’ll wait for the final conclusion of those inspections before definitively  putting that info out there.

Miller: But it seems so far that the fire itself – and we could talk about the water – but the fire itself, only affected the roof.

Burton: That’s right. That’s right. And it’s apparent on the north side of the hotel, for sure. But yeah, I think that’s an accurate assessment.

Miller: How extensive was the damage in total? I mean, if we’re talking about the roof from the fire, but now I’m also just wondering about the water.

Burton: Yeah, the water is going to be a big deal. The first responders were saturating the roof of the hotel and the chimney for a couple hours. So there’s a lot of water obviously coming through. The clean up crew started the process of vacuuming and drying and whatever else needed to be done last night, but there’s still a fair bit of work to be done.

In the big picture, it’s kind of benign, I think, for lack of a better description. We’re pretty lucky. We are going to start structural inspections today, and depending on how those go and if they go as expected, the plan right now is to open the hotel on Sunday, but stay tuned for more info on that.

Miller: That’s remarkably good news, given what could have happened in an old building with tons of wood, in addition to a lot of big stone, to be able to open it in only two days. So, does it seem at this point that you’re looking at clean up as opposed to restoration?

Burton: The short answer is yes, there will be some restoration required. Some of the artwork was removed last night and some of the furniture. And I don’t have an assessment on those pieces yet, but yes, there will be some restoration required for sure.

Miller: The historic lodge is separate from the day lodge, which I think more of a ski lodge. Will the ski area remain closed tomorrow, or on Sunday, if the lodge has to be closed for maybe longer than you’re hoping right now, or are those really separate?

Burton: Completely separate. It’s been determined that the ski area will operate tomorrow.

Miller: All right. John Burton, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate it.

Burton: Anytime. Thank you for having us on.

Miller: That’s John Burton. He is the director of marketing and public relations for Timberline Lodge. He joined us to talk about the fire last night at the historic lodge, which as he was saying, was not nearly as bad as people may have feared.

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