Blue Heron Paper Mill damaged by three-alarm fire
The Clackamas Fire District responded to a three-alarm fire at the former Blue Heron Paper Mill in Oregon City on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 5.
The heavy fire forced firefighters to battle the blaze in a defensive mode from the outside of the building, the district said. Crews accessed fire hydrants on Highway 99E and stretched hose lines across the road and train tracks, closing both the highway and the tracks.
No injuries were immediately reported and the cause of the fire was not immediately known. People gathered on the McLoughlin Promenade that stretches along the bluff above the shuttered paper mill to watch the firefighters' progress into the night.
According to the district, firefighters were first called to the former mill located at 419 Main St. in Oregon City at 2:06 p.m. on Dec. 5. The first arriving crews reported heavy black smoke from a large abandoned commercial building at the south end of the mill property and went to work to locate the fire, ventilate the structure and attempt to search the building. The fire was quickly upgraded to a second and third alarm, bringing in additional firefighting resources.
Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the night to ensure the fire did not spread, and fire investigators will be on the scene Sunday, Dec. 6, during daylight hours to continue the investigation. Assisting was Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and the Gladstone Fire Department.
In 2017, the Clackamas Fire District used the defunct paper mill as a training ground for firefighters.
In June 2019, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde entered into an agreement to buy the old paper mill and finalized the deal about two months later.
The site is important to the tribe. The nearby Willamette Falls area was seeded to the tribe by the government in the 1850s until the tribe was terminated in the 1950s. The tribe was restored in 1983 and they worked to purchase this land for years.
The 23-acre Blue Heron paper mill site closed in 2011. The tribe also owns Spirit Mountain Casino, but has no plans for a casino at the site.
But the Grand Ronde do have a future vision for the land. They are working with Metro and Oregon City on plans for a riverwalk and pedestrian plaza with views of the falls. Both governments have plans to repair and reopen the Willamette Falls Locks.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this story. Their version can be found here.
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