3-alarm blaze damages old Blue Heron paper mill

Clackamas County

Blue Heron paper mill closed in 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Grand Rhone Tribe, owners of the old Blue Heron paper mill in Oregon City, praised the fast response of firefighters who doused a large fire that broke out on the property Saturday.

The 3-alarm fire sent thick black smoke into the air Saturday afternoon as crews first worked to contain the blaze from a defensive mode.

“We are extremely grateful to the first responders who worked to battle the fire on the Tribe’s property,” Communications Director for the tribe Sara Thompson told KOIN 6 News Sunday. “Once they are able to complete their work and make the site safe, we can begin to assess the extent of the damages and any potential impacts.”

Clackamas Fire investigators are slated to survey the damage Sunday and will have an update forthcoming.

Last year, the tribe was working with Metro and Oregon City on plans for a riverwalk and pedestrian plaza with views of the falls. Thompson said it is not known what impact the fire’s aftermath will have on those plans.

“We have just completed the visioning stage of the project and are now moving into its master planning,” she said.

The Fire

A 3-alarm fire at the old Blue Heron paper mill in Oregon City spewed thick black smoke into the air Saturday afternoon, Clackamas Fire tweeted.

The heavy fire forced firefighters to battle the blaze in a defensive mode, that is, from the outside of the building. Aerial ladders and additional fire hydrants are being used in the battle.

No injuries have been reported and it’s unclear how the fire started. Fire crews are expected to stay at the scene throughout the night to make sure the fire doesn’t spread.

Investigators will be at the scene on Sunday to determine what caused the blaze.

In 2017, the Clackamas Fire District used the defunct paper mill as a training ground for fire fighters.

In June 2019, the confederated tribes of Grand Ronde entered into an agreement to buy the old Blue Heron paper mill in Oregon City and finalized the deal about two months later.

The site is important to the tribe. The Willamette Falls area was ceded to the tribe by the government in the 1850s until the tribe was terminated in the 1950s. The tribe was restored in 1983 and they worked to purchase this land for years.

The 23-acre Blue Heron paper mill site closed in 2011. The tribe also owns Spirit Mountain Casino but told KOIN 6 News there are no plans for a casino at the old paper mill site in Oregon City.

But the Grand Ronde do have a future vision for the land.

They said in September 2019 they were working with Metro and Oregon City on plans for a riverwalk and pedestrian plaza with views of the falls. There were also efforts underway to repair and reopen the Willamette Falls Locks.

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