Lionshead and Beachie Creek firefight will last a while


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After more than a week of devastation and uncertainty, progress continues to be made against the raging wildfires in Marion County.

On Thursday, KOIN 6 News spoke with Scott Owen, the public information officer for the Beachie Creek Fire, and with Randy Johnson, the Incident Commander for the Lionshead Fire.

Lionshead Fire

The Lionshead Fire continues to grow and is now listed at 189,316 acres with 10% containment.

Randy Johnson, the Incident Commander for the Lionshead Fire in Marion County, September 17, 2020 (KOIN)

Incident Commander Randy Johnson said the battle against the Lionshead Fire was fairly quiet overnight as crews strengthened containment lines. With an incoming weather transition, however, progress could slow in some areas.

Johnson said to not expect any change in evacuations for the area on Thursday. According to him, this blaze is “going to be around for a long time” — likely until the end of the fire season.

Beachie Creek Fire

The nearby Beachie Creek Fire has devoured 191,661 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 Thursday morning, crews have contained up to 20% of the blaze.

Scott Owen said their main goals now are protecting structures, mopping up any hot spots around houses and buildings and working on the containment line around the perimeter.

TOPSHOT – The melted sign of the Oak Park Motel destroyed by the flames of the Beachie Creek Fire is seen in Gates, east of Salem, Oregon on September 13, 2020. (Photo by ROB SCHUMACHER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“Once the smoke clears, which we hope is this (Thursday) afternoon or tomorrow (Friday) morning we are hoping to get aviation assets to help us out with more aerial work,” he said. “That way the helicopters and airplanes can do water drops and fire retardant, depending on the area.”

They have not been able to use any air resources because of the smoke.

The Beachie Creek Fire “has been broken up into 7 different divisions. That’s very common when you get to a fire this size. Different divisions have different operational tasks.”

Owen said they are closely watching the weather, “monitoring he wind forecast, the lightning forecast, the air quality, the smoke — all those things to make the best decision for the area of the fire.”

Beachie Creek Fire PIO Scott Owen, September 17, 2020 (KOIN)

The closures will remain in place for some time to come. Officials are worried about trees falling and with rain coming, “we don’t want anyone near those trees that fall.”

The evacuation levels remain as they were on Wednesday night. Deputies remain on patrol and they have one person still missing, “and that’s George Atiyeh, 72, from Lyons,” said Sgt. Jeremy Landers.

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 4,034 structures under Level 3 evacuations and another 3,801 under Level 2 evacuations.

Evacuation Levels

Marion County Evacuation Map

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

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.

Marion County evacuations and resources
Sign up for emergency alerts

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.

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