Powerline Fire: Evacuation levels downgraded Saturday
As firefighters continue to work on the Powerline Fire near Henry Hagg Lake as of Saturday, Sept. 12, evacuation orders are being rolled back further.
The unincorporated community of Cherry Grove about 2 miles south of the fire, which had been evacuated Tuesday, Sept. 8, is now at a Level 1, "Be Ready," evacuation order, continuing a positive trend.
Cherry Grove was placed on a Level 3, "Go Now," order to evacuate immediately Tuesday as the fire spread. But gradually, Gaston Rural Fire District, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, Oregon Department of Forestry and other agency firefighters gained control of the situation.
"Working with support from local fire districts and contract crews and equipment, the Oregon Department of Forestry made good progress on the Powerline Fire today," Forest Grove Fire & Rescue reported late Friday, Sept. 11. "Crews began the careful work of mopping up the fire, cooling hot spots to keep the fire within the current perimeter. Today's work was one more step in the steady march towards full containment."
Washington County announced just after 9:30 a.m. Saturday that Cherry Grove is now at the lowest level of evacuation orders, Level 1, which just requires residents to have an evacuation plan and consider packing up valuables and essentials in case they are instructed to leave.
The county is still imploring others to stay clear as firefighting operations continue. Hagg Lake itself remains closed to the public as firefighting aircraft use it to fill up their tanks.
"Unless you are an evacuee, please avoid the area," the county stated, emphasizing the last four words of the sentence.
The Powerline Fire, formerly known as the Stimson Mainline Fire, has burned about 126 acres. FGF&R said Friday night that no further growth is expected.
Fire investigators believe the wildfire was sparked by a utility pole falling to high winds that swept into the region Monday evening, Sept. 7.
The only route open to traffic in the area is Southwest Patton Valley Road.
Southwest Dundee, Lee and Hering roads remain under Level 2, "Be Set," evacuation orders, so residents choosing to return there should be prepared to leave at a moment's notice. Southwest Cascara Drive is also under a Level 2 order.
Incident commander Wayne Brown said with firefighters continuing to make progress, flames are no longer visible at the scene of the fire. But that doesn't mean it is considered to be extinguished or entirely contained.
"Lots of work remains in getting the heat out of the heavy burned fuels including stumps," Forest Grove Fire & Rescue said in a statement Saturday morning, citing Brown's assessment of the situation. "While the change in the weather is definitely favorable, fire managers want to be sure that nothing can reignite should another wind event occur later this fall."
The agency added, "Today, crews will continue to work around the perimeter of the fire to ensure that any hidden sources of heat are extinguished. Firefighters will continue to watch for, and mitigate, hazards to ensure their work is completed safely."
With many larger wildfires burning across the state, including the Riverside and Beachie Creek fires southeast of Portland, state resources are strained. Wildfires are also burning in Washington and California.
"Due to highly limited resources nationwide, it is incredibly important to ensure we can wipe this (Powerline Fire) off the map to be available as other needs arise," Forest Grove Fire & Rescue said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated as of 11:20 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, with updates on the fire status and with more information on routes affected by the wildfire, including to note higher-level evacuation orders in effect north of Cherry Grove.
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