Rain will be ‘blessing, curse’ for fire-ravaged Clackamas County

Wildfires

Officials say the forecasted rainfall won't be a 'season-ending event' and smoke could increase afterward

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — More than 600 firefighters are battling the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County and rain in the forecast could be a double-edged sword.

By Tuesday morning, the fire was 26% contained but was still burning over 138,000 acres. More than 5,000 people were still unable to return to their homes.

Large areas scorched by the Riverside Fire continue to smolder and there are many hazards, like weakened trees. While projected rainfall is expected to slow the fire’s spread, the added moisture and wind gusts could cause those trees to topple

“They might still be standing, they might look safe but in reality they might be ready to fall,” said Riverside Fire Public Information Officer Holly Krake.

Krake said crews will be closely monitoring the weather in the days to come.

“Just like the previous weather we had a couple of days ago it will be a blessing and curse as well,” Krake said. “Although we are not under a flashflood watch we are going to keep a close eye on that the possibility of locally heavy rains which include debris flow, mud slides.”

In the meantime, fire crews are working to remove hazardous trees near the fire line to minimize the threat.

Recent rainfall did trigger some debris flows but officials say they didn’t impact any homes. And while the rain is helping dampen historic fires around the state, experts say we aren’t yet through the woods.

“We also don’t anticipate that this will be a season-ending event. This will certainly dampen things and limit new fire growth but we are expecting a warming and drying trend just starting after this front passes through,” Krake warned. “With that we will see potentially increased smoke again and we will see some increased fire behavior and potential growth in remote, back country areas. This fire will be with us for a long time to come.”

With the threat of mudslides, officials say residents should stay out of creeks and other low-lying areas.

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