Clackamas County: 'The message here is to get out'
Officials in Clackamas County are pleading for local residents to take new wildfire evacuation orders in their area seriously and to get out as soon as they're told to leave.
This afternoon, new Level 3 evacuation orders were issued for parts of Molalla, all of Estacada and the communities of Beavercreek, Union Mills, Springwater and Mulino. Oregon City is now fully within Level 2 evacuation orders, as well as Sandy and all of the unincorporated areas south of Highway 212 near Damascus and Boring.
Officials from Clackamas Fire District #1, Clackamas County, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and the Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal hosted a press conference to update the public on the new evacuation orders and stress the message that they need people to follow these orders to keep everyone safe and out of harm's way.
"Really the take home message here is to get out," said Captain Brandon Paxton, Clackamas Fire public information office. "If you are in a Level 3, take that advice very seriously and get out to move to a safe location. The focus is to get people out of those life safety issues."
During the conference, it was also announced that the American Red Cross shelter currently set up at Clackamas Community College and the temporary shelter at nearby Oregon City High School are being moved. County officials are working with the Red Cross and other partners to identify new locations, but for now evacuees are being asked to move to the Clackamas Town Center parking lot for those with recreational vehicles and trailers, and to the Oregon Convention Center in Portland for those who need congregate shelter.
Clackamas County Incident Commander Nancy Bush said the office of disaster management is working to identify more locations for evacuees and will put out alerts to direct those needing shelter — including those with livestock in tow — soon.
State Fire Marshal Incident Commander Lance Lighty and others took questions from the media, but didn't have much to offer in terms of estimating how much acreage has burned, how quickly the fires are moving or how they might behave.
"Things are changing very quickly in our state, and this fire behavior is kind of a perfect weather scenario," Lighty said. "We're trying to build in that buffer and we're hoping that the weather does change so that we can actually start to anchor the fire and start working the actual fire line.
According to Lighty, the Beachie Creek Fire just outside of the Clackamas County line to the south has likely spilled over into Clackamas County and is now threatening to link up with the Riverside Fire near Molalla. These two fires are of biggest concern for the State Fire Marshal and they're keeping a close eye to see how those two react to changing weather conditions as they begin to converge.
"When a fire comes together, that synergistic effect to those fires creates a very interesting dynamic," he said.
Lighty added that all four fires currently burning in Clackamas County continue to threaten life and property.
Sheriff Craig Roberts was also asked whether rumors of arson have any basis in fact, to which Roberts said that his office has no evidence that any fires were the product of arson, nor whether any were the result of human activity.
"There'll be an in-depth investigation looking at all the possibilities and anything that might come forward regarding that, but at this particular point in time, there is nothing conclusive that would direct us to that," Roberts said.
Lighty echoed Roberts comments saying that while investigations certainly will occur, there is "nothing at this point that would lead us to suspect that we have man made fires."
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