Check back for live updates throughout Wednesday
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Firefighters continue to battle dozens of wildfires around the state of Oregon that have displaced thousands of people, taken the lives of at least 8 people and made the air in the Portland metro the worst in the world for days.
Here is the latest information for Wednesday, September 16, 2020:
Oregonians can enroll for health coverage
Since the federal emergency declaration, Oregon residents affected by the wildfires have up to 60 days from the end of the FEMA designation to select a new health insurance plan through HealthCare.gov or make changes to their existing health insurance plan.
Oregonians who were eligible for a standard special enrollment period, but missed this window due to the Oregon wildfires, can use the FEMA SEP to enroll in a plan. Applications are being accepted at HealthCare.gov if the life change is a loss in coverage and at 800-318-2596 (toll-free) for all other life changes.
ODOT assessing roads across the state
The Oregon Department of Transportation is looking at the damage on hundreds of miles of roads, damaged trees, culverts, bridges and guardrails.
ODOT officials said crews will go to each location as conditions allow. They’ve put a new webpage up to show the progress, what they’ve done, where they need to go, plus road information and office closures.
Scott Mills downgraded to Level 1 evacuation
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported Scotts Mills’ evacuation was downgraded from a Level 2 to a Level 1 Wednesday.
Marion County areas that remain in Level 2 include: Lyons; Mehama west of Highway 226; Fernridge Road west of Shellburg Creek Road to Basil Hill; Crooked Finger Rd and Moss Lane.
Multnomah County buildings closed Tuesday
Most county buildings are closed through Thursday, September 17 due to wildfire smoke, according to Multnomah County Officials. Some health clinics and the Courts will remain open.
Essential employees will report as usual and those teleworking will continue from home.
Providence awards $100K to relief agencies
Providence St. Joseph Health announced they’ll $100,000 to Oregon relief agencies and not-for-profit organizations involved with disaster response.
Of that, $50,000 will be equally split between Clackamas County Service Center, Canby Center, El Programma Hispano and NW Housing Alternatives. The other half will be split equally between Medford St. Vincent de Paul and the Southern Oregon United Way Fire Relief Fund.
Officials said more than 700 Providence caregivers were evacuated from their homes, and at least 30 have lost their homes.
“I know everyone joins me in keeping all of the people in our communities and also our caregivers in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time in Oregon,” said Providence Oregon CEO Lisa Vance.
470 homes destroyed by Beachie Creek Fire
The Beachie Creek Fire has devoured 191,238 acres about six miles north of Detroit. However, the growth in acreage from earlier in the week is not due to any fire spread — but because aerial assessments are giving a more accurate mapping. As of Wednesday morning, crews have contained up to 20% of the blaze.
An extensive assessment by fire officials has determined that 470 residences, 35 commercial
structures and 783 minor non-residential structures have been destroyed by the Beachie Creek Fire, totaling at 1,288 structures overall. Furthermore, 46 residences, 5 commercial structures, and 83 minor non-residential structures were damaged, but not completely destroyed. There are currently 5,845 structures at Level 3 evacuations and another 3,961 are in level 2 evacuations.
Big Hollow Fire 15% contained, several closures remain in effect
Crews working to tackle the Big Hollow Fire in Southwest Washington have increased its containment to 15%, according to officials.
The focus Wednesday will be limiting a westerly spread. Crews will monitor fire in the Wind River drainage and reduce fuels as needed to stop fire spread.
Area closures include most developed campgrounds, dispersed camping, most forest roads and trails in southwest Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Closures for the Siouxon Block and Merrill Lake Natural Conservation Area also are in place.
To date, the Big Hollow Fire has torched 22,153 acres of land.
Riverside Fire 3% contained
Officials monitoring the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County said Wednesday the blaze is 3% contained but that a dry forecast could slow down firefighters’ efforts.
Crews are scheduled to continue to work Wednesday from the North Fork Reservoir near the community of Estacada to the Dickie Prairie area along the southwest edge of the fire — a stretch of more than 28 miles.
The fire area will continue to remain dry with no measurable precipitation anticipated for several days, according to officials. The weather–combined with record dry forest conditions–will continue to allow the fire to slowly creep in remote and backcountry areas such as the Roaring Fork Wilderness.
Prisoners back in their own facilities
When the wildfires erupted, many prisoners were moved from 3 threatened Oregon Department of Corrections facilities to others on a temporary basis. On Wednesday, officials said all the adults in custody have been returned to their home facility — either the Oregon State Correctional Institution, the Mill Creek Correctional Facility and the Santiam Correctional Instituion.
A total of 1370 prisoners were evacuated and returned.
Lincoln County evacuations lowered
All Level 2 evacuations have been removed in Lincoln County as crews continue to get ahold of the Echo Mountain Fire Complex. The blaze is now 40% contained and remains at 2,522 acres.
The current Level 3 evacuation area remains in place, aside from the Highway 101/18 interchange and the residences between milepost 0 and 5 — that area has now been downgraded to a Level 2. ODOT has reopened Highway 18, but expect some delays at this time.
$5M now available for roads damaged by Oregon wildfires
In order to help repair infrastructure damage caused by raging wildfires across the state, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration has allocated $5 million in emergency funds for Oregon.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the “quick release” emergency relief funds will be immediately available. Highways, bridges, traffic control devices, guardrails and other transportation hardware have seen severe damage as a multitude of wildfires have swept across Oregon. Furthermore, the department says over 200 miles of federal-aid highway system remains closed.
MCSO, CCSO briefings scheduled
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is planning to hold a press briefing around 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning. During the press conference, the MCSO will discuss the ongoing firefighting efforts against the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires raging in the county.
Later in the day, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office will hold a press conference of their own to discuss the Riverside Fire. The conference will be held at 3 p.m.
KOIN 6 News will livestream both briefings online and on-air.
Schools remain closed
Dozens of schools around the region remain closed as wildfires continue to rage across the Pacific Northwest. Thousands of families have had to evacuate their homes while others have experienced internet connectivity issues due to power outages. Find a full list of school closures here.
Coastal air clearing up
The air in some spots around the Oregon Coast is clearing up Wednesday morning. However, the Portland metro and the valley are still seeing unhealthy air quality.
Portland water is safe to drink
On Tuesday, the Portland Water Bureau said drinking water is safe and has not been impacted by the wildfires burning in Oregon, despite rumors claiming otherwise.
“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.
“…The Portland Water Bureau has been carefully monitoring the turbidity of the water and has not found any measurable difference since the fire started.”
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.
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.
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.