Columbia County fairgrounds in St. Helens available to house livestock evacuated from fires

Updated Thursday, Sept. 10.

COURTESY OF ANNA WILLIAMSON - Volunteers unload bales of hay for livestock evacuated from wildfires.The Columbia County Fairgrounds have been opened for animals whose owners are fleeing the wildfires ravaging the west coast.

Clackamas County had also opened up its fairgrounds but on Thursday announced that livestock on the fairgrounds would be relocated to other venues. Columbia County will take roughly a third of the animals currently at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, according to a press release.

The fires spreading in Clackamas County had pushed the fairgrounds from a level one evacuation warning (the lowest level, meaning residents should start preparing for evacuation) to level two (meaning residents should be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice).

Twenty pigs found refuge in the Columbia County Fairgrounds overnight earlier this week. A few horses had also been brought in as of Wednesday, and volunteers said many more were on their way.COURTESY OF ANNA WILLIAMSON - Horses are housed in fairground barns after being evacuated from wildfires.

By Thursday afternoon, sheep, cows, chickens, goats, hogs, around 30 horses, and several displaced families had found shelter at the fairgrounds.

"A lot of these people had to get out in a hurry. Maybe they didn't have lead ropes and they just had to throw their horses in and go," Fair Board Member Laken Gortler said in a press release from Columbia County. "Whatever you have that you think we could use, please bring it."

Many are coming from Molalla and other sites in Clackamas County. Columbia County is not currently experiencing any wildfires, but nearby areas are under evacuation orders.

The fairgrounds contain three horse barns, two cow barns, and barns for sheep, pigs, goats, rabbits and chickens.

Owners should bring their own feed, but the fair board has two tons of hay available and is working to get more donations.

"We understand that many families are not able to stay with their livestock so I want to reassure (them) that drop and go is an option and we can relieve that burden from those that are evacuating," volunteer Shana Cavanaugh wrote in a Facebook post.

There are also RV spots available for those who need to stay with their animals.

The livestock operation currently has enough volunteers, but donations are still appreciated, Cavanaugh said Wednesday. "We need bedding shavings, feed, tack, supplies, hay, anything, we will take it," Cavanaugh said.

Donations can be brought to the fairground between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Cavanaugh can be reached at 541-357-2899 with questions or to arrange a drop-off of livestock.PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Cows relax at the fairgrounds during the 2019 Columbia County Fair. The 2020 fair was cancelled due to COVID-19, but the fairgrounds are now open for a different need: Livestock evacuated from the wildfires spreading throughout the west coast.

The fairgrounds have served as an emergency livestock location for many years, Fair Board President Jamie Carr said.

The fair board also postponed a drive-in concert scheduled for this weekend. The concert will be rescheduled for later this month.

The fairgrounds are located at 58892 Saulser Road in St. Helens.

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