PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After more than a week of devastation and uncertainty due to multiple wildfires in the area, progress is being made on the raging wildfires in Marion County.
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.
The nearby Lionshead Fire continues to grow and is now listed at 183,744 acres with 10% containment.
As many as 80,000 trees need to be removed
At a Wednesday morning press conference, Sheriff Joe Kast spoke about the layout the current evacuation levels, which are unchanged. He said the number of deaths resulting from the fires remains at four, while one known person is missing.
At this time, it is difficult to evaluate the full scope of damage done by the fires. Officials described the damage in the Santiam Canyon — specifically in Detroit — as extensive.
They also discussed that 10,000-80,000 trees need to be removed in order for roads to be safe once again. Because of this, residents are urged to stay away for the time being.
“We’ll do everything we can,” Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano said. “We want to get people back, get roadblocks out of the way. We want to be pragmatic, have common sense — I don’t care if they’re in tents, in mobile homes — I may be premature in saying this, but perhaps people can get ready. I talked to the governor, at least told her my plans on Saturday, and I think we can agree that we want to get people back as soon as possible — and that’s our pledge.”
Officials also discussed the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration that was granted for Oregon Tuesday, which provides a wider range of federal assistance programs for people and infrastructure upgrades.
Commissioner Kevin Cameron said he believes there are about 250 homes gone in Detroit, alone. However, that number has not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, the Army Corps will slow down the local water flow in order to buy more time to move boats from Detroit. Officials say Detroit has lost its water system and crews are working on recovering it.
“The people are resilient and they will come back stronger than ever,” Commissioner Kevin Cameron said.
One important public health message given during the meeting was that many properties in the Santiam Canyon have their own septic systems. Those systems are likely to be compromised upon residents’ return.
Marion County health officials say that COVID-19 testing has been affected due to the smoke in the area. They believe the next step is to look for ways to administer safe testing at an indoor facility while air quality remains hazardous.
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said evacuation levels for portions of the Mehama and Lyons communities were downgraded to Level 2. The current evacuations are as follows:
LEVEL 3 “GO”: Detroit, Idanha, Breitenbush, Mill City, Gates, North Fork Road north of Highway 22, 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.
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 an aerial assessment gave a more accurate mapping.
Over 1,200 structures have been completely destroyed while another 134 were damaged in the area.
The Beachie Creek Fire has been burning since August 16, several weeks before the wave of multiple wildfires swallowed Oregon over the Labor Day weekend. The fire has claimed the lives of at least four people with 10 people still missing.
The Lionshead Fire
The Lionshead Fire continues to grow and is now listed at 183,744 acres with 10% containment.
On Wednesday, fire officials said, “Aviation assets will likely be grounded by smoke again today, but firefighting efforts are on a positive trajectory. Some mop-up work remains in the Stahlman neighborhood and south of Detroit Lake, and crews will be removing fire-weakened trees in Detroit for the safety of firefighters and residents.”
Later this week, Pacific Northwest Team 3 will be transferring command of the Lionshead Fire to Rocky Mountain Team 1.
Due to roadway hazards such as falling trees and rock slides along Highway 22, access to the Level 3 evacuation zone for animal removal and feeding has been suspended. Officials met on Monday to discuss how residents could safely feed and care for their animals, but no plan has been finalized.
While law enforcement is still limiting access to the Santiam Canyon, Detroit and Idanha residents can request a check on their property by calling 503.798.6823 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. any day of the week. They should provide the following information when they call: Name, address, phone number, information about anyone missing from the location, and any animals at the location.
To report a family member missing, please contact the non-emergency dispatch at 503.588.5032. As of Sunday morning, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said they have five people who have been reported as missing.