Weather brings Clackamas County hope for fighting wildfires
Officials representing local, state and federal agencies fighting the five major fires burning throughout Clackamas County are hopeful that they'll begin to make some progress in containing them as weather becomes more favorable and more resources are made available.
Clackamas County Incident Commander Nancy Bush was joined Friday, Sept. 11 in a press conference with Clackamas Fire District #1 Chief Fred Charlton, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts, Oregon State Fire Marshal Incident Commander Lance Lighty and Southwest Incident Management Team Section Chief Ralph Lucas.
Charlton began by reaffirming that the fires in Clackamas County still present a very dangerous and complex situation for all agencies involved and things continue to change quickly.
Charlton said that firefighters are entering their fourth straight day of fighting these fires after taking a "tactical pause" yesterday to allow for rest and reevaluation. Last night they returned to work after some much needed recuperation.
The Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal has now taken command of all fires in Clackamas County led by Light, and with assistance from the federal Southwest Incident Management Team headed by Lucas.
According to Lighty, the Wilhoit Fire, Unger Fire and Dowty Fire have now burned an area of approximately 4,000 acres, with the Riverside Fire threatening the cities of Estacada and Molalla having reached 130,000 acres with 0% containment.
According to Lucas, there are three "fingers" of the Riverside Fire that crews are now prioritizing in order to establish a fire line, with one hotshot crew working the finger closest to Estacada at about a half mile.
"The lines are looking good due to favorable conditions," Lucas said. "The marine layer coming in and the smoke kind of holding things are both moderating the fire's behavior, so that's really good."
Lucas and Lighty said that while they do not have a timeline of when some of the Level 3 evacuation orders for areas close to the fires and other Level 2 orders nearby might be lifted and local residents allowed to return home, they are constantly reviewing those orders and ensuring that life-safety of the public and their firefighters top priority.
While it's uncertain when the evacuation orders might be rolled back, Lighty did say they do not expect to upgrade any more evacuation orders, meaning areas of Oregon City, Canby and other outlying areas of Molalla, Estacada and other communities will likely remain in under the same orders they currently area for the foreseeable future.
Clackamas County deputies have received increased reports of looting in areas affected by the fires and under evacuation orders. Roberts wants the public to know that they are increasing patrols in those areas, and the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners approved Thursday an emergency power giving the sheriff's office authority to set a curfew which is now in place from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
"I want to reassure you that there's a tremendous amount of patrols in these areas," Roberts said. "We take all those calls seriously and we are looking into it. We've also created a detective team in collaboration with the Oregon State Police that is dedicated to this."
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