While most of South Clackamas County is under evacuation orders due to wildfires, the rest of the county should be ready for potential evacuation.
There are four major wildfires burning in the county: Dowty (Eagle Creek), Riverside (southeast of Estacada and Colton), Unger (Colton) and Wilhoit (South Molalla), Clackamas Fire Chief Fred Charlton said during a press conference Tuesday night, Sept. 8.
According to Clackamas County, the Beachie Creek Fire, burning in Santiam Forest and west into the valley, is also affecting parts of Clackamas County.
Charlton reminded residents of the three evacuation levels:
Presently, every home in Clackamas County south of Highway 211 between Estacada and Woodburn is at Level 3 evacuation.
The highway runs through the center of Molalla, splitting the town into Level 3 and Level 2. Those who live south of the highway should evacuate, while those north of it should be ready.
Visibility in Molalla is low, with red, smoky skies and ash falling. Air quality is low, and those who remain at home should stay inside.
Colton is at Level 3 and should be evacuated. Smoke fills the air and the Unger Road fire still burns.
The Estacada area is now at Level 3.
The rest of the county, including Canby, is at a Level 1. Canby is currently safe from fires, but the air quality is poor.
According to Mayor Brian Hodson, Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis is encouraging people to consider evacuation at Level 2.
"This would enable a calmer, more effective evacuation than if everyone waits until Level 3," Hodson said.
Up-to-date evacuation levels for Clackamas County are available on an interactive map at clackamas.us/wildfires.
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts encourages those in the county to check on and help out their neighbors.
"I'm asking the community that has neighbors and seniors and other people out there to check on them, reach out to them, make sure that they're aware. Not everybody has social media, not everybody has email, and in some of these rural communities, we really need your help to make sure we're checking on everybody and making sure that they're aware that they need to be prepared to leave," Roberts said during the press conference. "Some of these individuals that we're reaching out to, we're giving them minutes' notice to leave."
For those required to evacuate, there is now just one check-in location: Clackamas Community College. According to Clackamas County Disaster Management Director Nancy Bush, Sandy High School is no longer open, but the county is actively working on securing more sites.
Bush estimated Tuesday night that 1,500 to 2,000 or more residences have been evacuated in the county.
Those who have evacuated should not return.
"We're asking everyone who leaves to not come back for their safety," said Kyra Bush, a volunteer at Molalla Fire.
Charlton said Wednesday morning he had no estimate as to when evacuees could return home. Bush said evacuations could last a few days to a week.
This story has been updated.
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