Oneonta Tunnel like a 'kiln,' ODOT worker says
A scenic tunnel in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge appears to have been heavily damaged by the still-burning Eagle Creek wildfire.
Fire and flames transformed the Oneonta Tunnel into a "kiln," said Doug Gross, who snapped a now viral photo of the manmade passageway engulfed in flames during the night of Monday, Sept. 5.
"It reminded me of a kiln, the heat was unreal," he said in an interview. "It was extremely saddening to see the destruction of such a beautiful place."
The Oregon Department of Transportation employee saw the destruction while working to keep roads clear for firefighters and other first responders.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 5, the Eagle Creek blaze had spread to more than 10,000 acres and had forced the evacuation of some 400 homes in East Multnomah County.
First open to motorists between 1914 to 1948, the 125-foot rock-wall tunnel was eventually closed and filled with boulders for more than 60 years. It was cleared and reopened in 2009 as a tourist attraction and pedestrian and bicycle passage.