Oregon's wildfire crisis enters its second week
Hard work, good luck, but no immediate end to the smoke.
Oregon's wildfire crisis is now a week old.
Near Estacada, crews on Monday, Sept. 14, worked on the Riverside Fire plan to strengthen lines near Faraday Lake just outside the city limits.
Firefighters are engaging with the hotspots to hold the flames east of Day Hill Road and to prevent additional growth. They also are working to hold the fire south of Fall Creek Road, near the North Fork Reservoir and Highway 224.
Nearby, crews are working to establish holding lines near the Green Mountain and Goat Mountain, approximately 5 miles south of Colton.
As of the fire has burned 134,575 acres and is 0% contained. A total of 385 personnel are working on the fire.
"With the additional resources arriving, we are continuing our efforts to suppress the Riverside Fire where we can do so safely and effectively," said Dave Bales, Deputy Incident Commander with Southwest Area Team 1. "However, with a fire perimeter 107 miles long, we're looking at a marathon here and not a sprint."
Meanwhile, after nearly a week of virtually nonstop work on the Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak Fire in Washington and Yamhill counties was 100% contained as of Monday, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue announced.
The fire burned an estimated 875 acres and destroyed at least three structures, but all homes in the area were saved with the efforts of firefighters both on the scene and attacking from the air.
Super Scooper air tankers provided crucial air support last week as firefighters fought to keep the wildfire from spreading further or leaping to homes. The tankers used Henry Hagg Lake to the west to refill and dumped load after load of water on the wildfire.
Several hundred people were evacuated last week as the fire quickly grew in size and intensity.
The last of the Level 3 "Go Now" evacuation orders were lifted Sunday, Sept. 13, with the fire then at 75% containment. Evacuation orders, Levels 1 through 3, are essentially, "ready," "set" and "go."
Much of the area remains at Level 2, "Be Set," under which residents should be prepared to evacuate again if needed.
And in one of countless signs of Oregonians working together through this crisis, one small fire district stepped up Monday to help another.
As the tourist communities of Idanha and Detroit face devastation from fire, crews from the primarily volunteer-run fire department have been sacrificing their time and risking their lives to fight the Lionshead Fire that is blazing across Linn and Marion counties. Meanwhile, the fire destroyed one of the department's engines and its district office, Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Prevention District said in a post on social media.
On Friday, Sept. 11, Aurora Fire offered the Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District the gift of a fire engine. Firefighters in Aurora had heard about the loss and decided to do something about it on a day that garnered much less attention in Oregon this year because of the fires — the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Today is Sept. 11, and we are in remembrance of what occurred in 2001," Aurora Fire said in its own post. "As firefighters and communities, one of the ways we can remember 911 is the act of giving. The community is giving to us, and now we are paying it forward."
Throughout the Northwest, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency and the Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency extended an air quality advisory Monday for all regions of Oregon and Southwest Washington due to smoke from fires in Oregon, Washington and California. DEQ officials say they expect the air quality advisory to last at least through Thursday, Sept. 17.
"The smoke is a constant reminder that this tragedy has not come to an end," Gov. Kate Brown said Monday.
Smoke levels are fluctuating between unhealthy (red) and hazardous (maroon) for Oregon and Southwest Washington, the agency said around noon on Monday.
Doug Grafe, fire protection chief for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said on Monday his concern focused on five wildfires in Southern Oregon, south central Oregon and near Warm Springs in Central Oregon.
He said crews were making progress in controlling the Riverside fire in Clackamas County and the Beachie Creek fire in Marion County, fires that once threatened to merge but are separated by about 30,000 acres of forest land. "We are going to do our best to maintain control," he said.
Among the thousands fighting the wildfires are 700 soldiers and airmen from the Oregon National Guard. Maj. Gen. Michael Stencel, the adjutant general, said that total will rise to 1,000 by the end of the week, when two more 125-member teams complete their training. Three teams are in the field now.
Learn more at the Oregon wildfire information website.
Reporters Dana Haynes, Emily Lindstrand, Mark Miller, Kristen Wohlers and Peter Wong contributed to this article.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.