Riverside Fire 25% contained, evacuation levels downgraded


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Clackamas County officials held a press conference on Monday, announcing some progress made on wildfires and the downgrading of the evacuation level for the City of Estacada.

“I’m here to tell you we are slowly making progress,” Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader said. She said more than 5,000 people still can’t return home, however.

“Relief and support efforts have ramped up,” Schrader said. “We will all go through this together.”

Some other changes to evacuation levels were also announced Monday. Sheriff Craig Roberts urged residents to stay out of Level 3 evacuation areas and respect road closures. He said increased traffic in these areas creates additional safety concerns for firefighters and other first responders.

Roberts reported on two cases of arson that happened within the county but were not connected to the wildfires. He said crime has remained low because of increased patrols by law enforcement.

The Clackamas County Evacuation Zone as of 1 p.m., September 21, 2020 (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)
  • Additional areas have been removed from evacuation level status and returned to “Normal” — coinciding with the scaling back of Level 1 “Ready” (green) and Level 2 “Set” (yellow) areas across the county.
  • The area of the Wilhoit fire has been returned to Level 1 “Ready” (green).
  • The immediate areas surrounding the Dowty Fire, Unger Fire, and Riverside Fire remain at Level 3 “Go” (red).
  • The City of Estacada is now at Level 1“Ready” (green).
  • The Mt. Hood National Forrest remains under a closure order
  • The 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew is now in effect for Level 3 (red) areas only.

The Riverside Fire is up to 25% contained. The inferno swallowed nearly 140,000 acres of the Mt. Hood National Forest.

“We’re going to start seeing that containment number increase each day as they really secure those lines,” Incident Commander Alan Sinclair said during Monday’s press conference.

Firefighters in Clackamas County were able to work on getting containment lines in place as the smoke cleared the air throughout the weekend. Crews continue to make progress on strengthening and expanding the containment line near communities — especially near Molalla and Estacada.

“We understand the importance of getting back home and we are having daily conversations with the cooperators and are moving as quickly as possible to get residents back where they need to be,” said Incident Commander Alan Sinclair in a release. “

The Riverside Fire has burned 137,971 acres. Over the weekend, cooler, clear and dry weather gave firefighters the opportunity to see what’s going from the ground level and the air.

The improved conditions allowed firefighters to fly a helicopter over the northeast side of the fire and conduct aerial assessments in that area. Fire officials say a drone was also used to monitor activity on the southwest side of the fire.

Crews continue to work their way east and use heavy equipment where they can do so safely.  

A temporary flight restriction is still in effect — so fire officials ask that you keep all personal drones on the ground. They say if a drone that is not part of their operation is spotted in the area, they will have to ground all fire aircraft.

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