Officials: Riverside Fire ‘number one priority’ in PNW

Wildfires

Blaze has scorched 137,865 acres to date

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Fire managers say the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County is now the number one priority in the Pacific Northwest. A fire spokesperson said that means that the fire will receive all the crews necessary to get it under control.

Fire spokesperson Holly Krake said Saturday that there are now more than 700 people working on the Riverside Fire. Friday’s rainfall over the Clackamas County fire moderately helped improve the containment of the blaze, according to fire officials, which sits at 11%.

“Rain doesn’t do much to put out the fire unless we get a lot of it,” said Incident Commander Alan Sinclair in a release Saturday. “But the good news is the cool, damp weather is moderating fire activity and giving us a chance to make progress in containment efforts.” 

Additionally, the improved air quality and visibility will allow firefighters to use drones to survey the fire from the sky. However, public use of drones is not permitted in the fire zone, officials said. “If you fly, we can’t. All fire aircraft will all be grounded if a drone is spotted,” officials said in a statement.

The latest data showed the Riverside Fire had burned 137,865 acres. Officials listed the Riverside Fire as “human-caused” on the Incident Information System.

“There are only two causes of natural fire: lightning and volcanic activity,” explained Krake. “Because neither was occurring, it was concluded it was human-caused.”

She said there was no lightning at the time the first was reported.

“We are confident that it was human, but we will wait until that official fire investigation is conducted to know exactly what the cause of the fire was.”

That investigation will be led by the Mt. Hood National Forest agency, which has already started the process, according to Krake.

On Saturday, crews were slated to continue working on connecting fire lines on the west and north sides of the fire. Krake said it will be some time before the Riverside Fire is completely out. In fact, she said firefighters have reported that it’s been burning or smoldering at least two feet deep under the surface of the forest floor in some places, continuing to burn what is called the duff layer—a layer of decaying leaves and pine needles.

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