Lake Oswego City Council ratifies state of emergency
The Lake Oswego City Council on Saturday unanimously ratified a state of emergency due to the wildfires that was declared by City Manager Martha Bennett Friday, Sept. 11.
During a special meeting Saturday afternoon that was called specifically to ratify the state of emergency, Bennett and other city department leaders also expanded on the reasons behind the declaration.
"We decided in the morning (Sept. 11) that it was going to be important for the city to declare a state of emergency for two real reasons," Bennett said. "One is just the extreme fire danger that is present in the community right now, and second is the lack of resources that are available — not just in our city but throughout the region — to fight a fire if one were to start."
As of Saturday afternoon, Lake Oswego remained under Level 1 evacuation orders, meaning residents should be ready for potential evacuation. Level 2 means residents should be set to evacuate at a moment's notice, and Level 3 means "Go now."
Under this state of emergency, which can last no longer than 36 hours before it must be extended, the city can prohibit certain activities, close or restrict access to parks and other facilities, procure goods and services without complying with normal procedures, and redirect any necessary funds for emergency purposes.
Specifically, under this order the city is prohibiting all open burning or open flames, as well as outdoor smoking, the use of powered outdoor yard maintenance or construction equipment that creates sparks (including lawnmowers, chainsaws, chippers, blowers and weed whackers), and all other devices that cause an outdoor spark or flame.
As both Bennett and Lake Oswego Fire Department Chief Don Johnson stressed, any fire in Lake Oswego right now could be catastrophic due to depleted resources.
"A lot of our staff have been evacuated (from their homes), so we've had to bring in folks to essentially live on city property throughout the emergency because they can't go to their own homes," Bennett said. "So the truth is we really couldn't afford to have a significant event happen in Lake Oswego. We do expect the weather to turn over the weekend, and by Monday night it's expected to rain, so this should be a very short duration we're asking folks to curtail certain behaviors."
Johnson said with many Lake Oswego firefighters deployed to fight the wildfires elsewhere in Clackamas County, it would be very difficult to respond to a local event.
"With all the resources committed to the county, we can't afford to have a fire here," Johnson said.
He referenced a fire that took place at a home in Lake Oswego earlier this summer.
"That took about 17 firefighters and five rigs to deal with the whole thing. And we just don't have 17 firefighters and five rigs (right now)," Johnson said.
With the state of emergency technically being in effect since noon Friday, Lake Oswego Police Chief Dale Jorgensen said police already had responded to 24 complaints about restrictions not being followed. He added that police are taking a similar approach to the COVID-19 state of emergency and associated restrictions that were put in place earlier this year.
"We like to educate people first, and then we'll warn them and if push comes to shove, of course, we'll cite them," Jorgensen said. "By and large, most people are very, very compliant. Once we educate them … they absolutely agree."
Jorgensen said one local restaurant, which he did not name, had a smoking section located in a grove of trees.
"We educated that establishment on how that's probably not the best thing to have right now," he said.
Before the council voted to ratify the state of emergency, Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff asked why the city wasn't extending the declaration beyond Tuesday. Earlier in the meeting, Johnson had said he would prefer for it to be in place for at least a week.
Bennett said that the city was putting restrictions on private property use, and that she wanted to limit that to the extent possible while also allowing for reassessment given that rain is expected Monday. Since the council is meeting Tuesday, it will have an opportunity then to extend the state of emergency if need be.
Councilor Daniel Nguyen added that he'd recently volunteered with the American Red Cross at the Oregon Convention Center, which is one of the gathering places for evacuees.
"If you're looking for something to do and something to be able to make an impact — if you're able to, of course, in the era of COVID … please consider that," Nguyen said.
Under the state of emergency, the following Parks & Recreation sites are closed through Sunday, Sept. 13, according to the city:
• Parks, including restrooms and parking lots
• Athletic Fields
• Christ Church Parks & Recreation Annex, including Teen Lounge
• Lake Oswego Golf Course
• Lake Oswego Indoor Tennis Center
• Luscher Farm
• Natural areas
• Water Sports Center
In addition, the following Parks & Recreation programs are canceled:
• Lake Oswego Farmers' Market Saturday, Sept. 12
• All tennis classes and activities at the Indoor Tennis Center, through Sunday, Sept. 13
• All Parks & Recreation activities at Christ Church Parish, through Sunday, Sept. 13 (church programs may still take place)
• Pickleball Clinic & Play Class Sunday, Sept. 13
• Community Supported Agriculture Pickup
• Cooking in the Classroom Saturday, Sept. 12 is rescheduled to Saturday, Sept. 19
• Farm Family Dinners Sunday, Sept. 13
• Skyhawks Classes scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12, and Monday, Sept. 14, including Tiny-Hawks Soccer, Mini-Hawks Multi-Sport and Mini-Hawks Basketball
• Challenger Tiny Tykes classes through Monday, Sept. 14, including Tiny Tykes Cubs and Lions Soccer classes
• Meals on Wheels delivery and pickup Friday, Sept. 11
• High school golf prep class Friday, Sept. 11.
Other things to know
The city noted Friday that water demands are high throughout the region, and residents should limit their water use to the extent that they can.
"Our water treatment plant is fully functional and our water is safe to drink. Please do your part: reduce your water use and save water for fighting fires in our region," the city said in a post on its website.
Go here to register for emergency notifications from the county.
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