Two busloads of hikers in Oregon were reunited with their friends and family Sunday morning after they were forced to spend the night in the mountains east of Portland when a wildfire closed their trail and they were trapped between two blazes.
Mountain Wave Search and Rescue president Russ Gubele said about 104 people have made their way down a different trail to safety by about noon and about 42 more were expected to arrive at Wahtum Lake by early Sunday afternoon. They would then take a bus to meet their families.
Many of the hikers had gone up the Eagle Creek Trail on Saturday to swim at the popular waterfalls and pools, but a fire broke out near the Columbia River Gorge trail about 90 miles (144 kilometers) east of Portland. The blaze was burning on the Eagle Creek Trail, and the only other way out was longer and more difficult, and it was getting dark, so officials told them to spend the night near Tunnel Falls. Mountain Wave dropped supplies to the hikers.
Gubele says search and rescue teams headed up the second trail on Sunday morning and led the hikers out the 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) toward Wahtum Lake.
The first group made it out by about 10:30 a.m. and the last group was expected by about 1 or 1:30 p.m.
"It's horribly smoky," Gubele said. "Ash is coming down. It's like a Mount Saint Helens eruption all over again."
None of the hikers experienced medical issues, he said.
On Saturday, 14 hikers were brought out and returned to Eagle Creek and three hikers were rescued by National Guard helicopter.
Authorities say the wildfire had grown to almost 5 square miles (13 square kilometers) by Sunday. A portion of the Eagle Creek Trail had been closed for weeks because of another fire that erupted July 4.
About 130 homes in Cascade Locks were under evacuation orders because of the flames from the more recent wildfire. A Red Cross shelter was set up at the Skamania County Fairgrounds, across the Columbia River in Stevenson, Washington.