Check back for live updates throughout Tuesday
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The wildfires that already torched more than 1 million acres of Oregon — which is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island — continue to affect every resident of the state in one way or another.
Here is the latest information for Tuesday, September 15, 2020:
Portland water is safe to drink
The Portland Water Bureau said drinking water is safe and has not been impacted by the wildfires burning in Oregon, despite rumors claiming otherwise.
The bureau released the following statement:
“The Portland Water Bureau is working closely with the U.S. Forest Service Oregon Department of Forestry, local fire departments, and other agencies to monitor fires near the Bull Run Watershed Management Area and to prepare for any fire-related threats to our drinking water.
“Our treatment operators in the Bull Run Watershed are closely monitoring potential impacts from the regional wildfires. So far there has been no noticeable ash fall in the Bull Run. Any ash that may fall in the Bull Run is unlikely to pose a water quality concern. Our drinking water is stored in two large reservoirs in the Bull Run Watershed. Any ash that falls on water surfaces would be diluted by the volume of water in the reservoirs.
“Additionally, our water system pulls water from the middle to lower parts of the reservoirs, rather than the surface, for drinking water use, further minimizing any potential impacts. One way to monitor for impacts of ash on the water is to look at the turbidity or the number of particles in the water. The Portland Water Bureau has been carefully monitoring the turbidity of the water and has not found any measurable difference since the fire started.”
3100 without power in Medford
More than a week after the wind storm knocked out power in many regions across Oregon, about 3100 residents in Medford remain without power. Another 700 in Lincoln City and 500 in the Glide/Umqua Canyon area are also powerless.
“This has been a tremendously trying week for all our customers affected by this unparalleled disaster,” said David Lucas, the vice president of operations for Pacific Power. “Our communities are showing such resilience and their appreciation for the frontline responders and our crews is a terrific statement about the people we are privileged to serve.”
Website launched to help track displaced animals
The ODA Animal Tracker is meant to assist Oregonians looking for animals displaced during the wildfires. This tracker is not intended to replace existing systems already in place at county animal shelters. In order to make the database work, animal shelters, private citizens and groups caring for animals without known owners can email the Oregon Department of Agriculture with information and photos. That information will be added to the database and continuously updated. Therefore, owners are asked to visit often if they don’t see their animal listed.
President Trump declares ‘Major Disaster’ in Oregon
A Presidential Major Disaster Declaration was granted for Oregon Tuesday as wildfires burn more than one million acres across the state.
Governor Kate Brown announced the declaration in a tweet, saying, “Oregon is resilient, but to fight fires on this scale, we need all the help we can get. Grateful we’ve been quickly granted a Presidential Disaster Declaration, helping provide support like damage assessment teams, search & rescue, debris management, shelter & medical assistance.”
How the Chehalem Mountain Fire started
“An improperly extinguished campfire on private property” is what sparked the Chehalem Mountain – Bald Peak Fire that consumed 875 acres, TVF&R said Tuesday. As a result of dry fuels, low humidity, high winds as well as steep and rugged terrain, the fire spread very quickly and proved very challenging to fight.
Marion County downgrades some evacuations
As of 1 pm, on September 15, 2020, evacuation levels are being updated for portions of the Mehama and Lyons communities, being downgraded to a Level 2 “Be Set” evacuation status. Existing closures on Highway 22 will remain in effect due to continuing extreme hazards from falling trees. As residents prepare to return to fire impacted areas, we want to remind them to be prepared for
Current evacuation information for Marion County:
LEVEL 3 “GO”: Detroit, Idanha, Breitenbush, Mill City, Gates, North Fork Rd recreation area, Highway 22 east of Highway 226
LEVEL 2 “BE SET”: Lyons, Mehama west of Highway 226, Fernridge Road west of Shellburg Creek Road to Basil Hill, Scotts Mills, Crooked Finger Rd and Moss Lane
LEVEL 1 “GET READY”: Areas east of Meridian Rd, Davis Creek and Victor Point south to the Marion County line
Also, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office identified 2 Lyons residents who died in the fires: Cathy Cook, 71, and 41-year-old Justin Cook. They were found near their property in the 32000 block of North Fork Lane in Lyons, officials said.
To see detailed current Marion County Evacuation Zones please visit: http://bit.ly/MCEvacZones
Clackamas County press conference
Clackamas County fire officials announced they will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday with the latest updates. KOIN.com will live stream this event.
Echo Mountain Fire now 33% contained
Sitting at 2,552 acres in Lincoln County, the Echo Mountain Fire Complex is now 33% contained with 100% of the control line completed.
Although the flames got some precipitation early Tuesday morning, it was less than forecasted. The western edge of the fire was estimated to have received a few 100ths of an inch of rain, according to officials. Crews are hopeful for incoming precipitation later in the week.
As crews continue to battle the blaze, some evacuation levels have been downgraded.
As of 7 a.m. Monday morning, officials said the Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation orders for east of Rose Lodge on Highway 18 and south of Highway 18 from Rose Lodge to East Devils Lake Road have both been downgraded to a Level 2 “Get Set” evacuation.
They say the Highway 18 road closure remains in place, but the roadblock will be moved west to Rose Lodge at N. North Bank Road and Highway 18. Anyone who lives on Bear Creek Road or a road off of Bear Creek Road will be let through the roadblock.
The area in and surrounding the fire remains under Level 3 evacuation orders.
Marion County evacuation levels unchanged
As the Beachie Creek Fire swallows nearly 200,000 acres of land, almost 17,000 homes and businesses remain under Level 3 evacuation notices in Marion County. Numerous evacuees remain at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, and for many, it’s been a grueling wait to find out if they still have a home.
Early Tuesday morning, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said “there are no changes to the evacuation levels” at this time — but, the fire’s containment level has risen to 15%.
Air quality remains unhealthy
Relief from putrid, dangerous air spewing from massive wildfires across the West won’t come until later in the week or beyond, scientists and forecasters say, and the hazy and gunk-filled skies might stick around for even longer.
People in Oregon, Washington and parts of California were struggling under acrid yellowish-green smog — the worst, most unhealthy air on the planet according to some measurements. It seeped into homes and businesses, sneaked into cars through air conditioning vents and caused the closure of iconic locations such as Powell’s Books and the Oregon Zoo in Portland, the state’s biggest city.
Tyler Kranz, a meteorologist at Portland’s National Weather Service office, said for the smoke to disperse Oregon will need strong enough winds blowing from the ocean towards land — but there needs to be a “perfect balance” of wind so that it disperses smoke but doesn’t further ignite fires.
“We need the winds to get the smoke out of here,” Kranz said. “We just don’t want them to be too strong, because then they could fan those flames and all of a sudden those fires are spreading again.”
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality extended an air quality alert to Thursday after it was to initially expire on Monday. The air was so thick that on Monday Alaska Airlines announced it was suspending service to Portland and Spokane, Washington, until Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, smoky skies fouled Washington state and experts said some parts of California might not see relief until next month.
Dozens of schools closed again
The air quality from the wildfire smoke has once again closed dozens of schools, including online instruction, in districts around the state. Complete list of closings and delays
Emergency conflagration for Brattain Fire
7:44 p.m. Monday
Governor Kate Brown approved an emergency conflagration declaration for the Brattain Fire near Paisley in Lake County.
“The situation remains very dangerous in Paisley,” said Brown. “Wind continues to fuel these wildfires, with devastating consequences across the region. People’s homes, lives, land, and safety are at risk. If you’re in the evacuation zone, please stay vigilant. Pay close attention and listen to local calls to evacuate as needed — this can save your life, your family and the lives of our firefighters.”
Alaska Airlines suspends flights at PDX
5:10 p.m. Monday
On Monday, Alaska Airlines temporarily suspended all flights to and from the Portland International Airport due to the smoke and hazardous air quality. The suspensions are expected to last until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
Gov. Brown confirms 10 wildfire-related deaths, warns of more
2:15 p.m. Monday
Speaking during a press conference on Monday afternoon, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown confirmed that 10 deaths are related to the wildland infernos that have devastated the state, and added the number would rise as local medical examiners continue to report additional fatalities. The Office of Emergency Management will begin to release statewide totals, Brown said.
Air Quality: Air quality levels, which were hazardous over the weekend, are expected to remain at unhealthy levels for much of Monday
INTERACTIVE MAP: Air quality conditions in Oregon
Wildfires: Officials said there are 36 wildfires burning in the state
Wildfires in Oregon: Names, locations, size, containment
Evacuations: More than 40,000 fled their homes, and more than 500,000 were in evacuation zones at some point in the last week.
MAPS: Wildfires, evacuation zones in Oregon
Shelters: Shelters are set up around the state, including some that take livestock
LIST: Temporary shelters as wildfires rip through Oregon
The Associated Press contributed to this report.