Canby-area residents awoke to eerie déjà vu, as the sky was turned hazy and yellow by smoke from nearby brush fires including one that burned 35 acres in and around Milo McIver State Park Fire in Estacada, evoking the start of the disastrous wildfires of September 2020 almost exactly two years ago.
Meanwhile, an unrelated crash on Knights Bridge Road early Saturday morning knocked out power in parts of Canby, including the police department and wastewater treatment plant.
Canby Police Chief Jorge Tro told the Current that the outage occurred when a driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a utility pole at the intersection of Knights Bridge and North Ash.
Captain Doug Kitzmiller and Sergeant Stephanie Anderson also reported around 9 a.m. that power was still out at the police station but its generator was running smoothly.
Officials also reported shortly after 9 a.m. that crews with Canby Utility and the Canby Public Works Department were hard at work to restore power to affected customers.
Leaders were optimistic that power would be restored by 11 a.m.
“Thank you to our crews for all of their hard work,” the city said on Facebook.
The Milo McIver fire broke out Friday night on park grounds and spread quickly, fire officials reported, prompting evacuations from the campground and surrounding areas, including the Clackamas River, Fellows and Mattoon on the west, and south of Fischers Mill to Metzler Park in Estacada.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office was handling area evacuations and had not requested assistance from Canby PD, Chief Tro reported. However, Canby Fire crews were on scene to assist crews from Clackamas, Estacada, Molalla, Aurora and Colton.
The four-alarm fire eventually grew to consume an estimated 35 acres but was reportedly contained as of Saturday morning. Officials have confirmed that more than one home was lost in the blaze, but specific numbers and damage estimates were not yet available.
“The McIver Park fire is under control,” Canby Fire reported at 8:35 a.m. Saturday. “We understand everyone is concerned about the sky looking like it did in 2020 and the spread of the fire. The fire is confirmed as contained and not spreading now.”
Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis said the smoke Canby-area residents were experiencing Saturday morning were from other, larger fires burning elsewhere in Oregon, not Milo McIver. Inversion conditions will likely keep the smoke trapped in the Willamette Valley through the weekend, dampening visibility and air quality.
“The Milo McIver fire is contained to approximately 35 acres,” Davis said. “The inversion you are seeing is from other fires in the state.” Crews fought the fire through the night and “worked phenomenally well together to establish a fire line” to protect homes and structures, according to Clack Fire spokesman Izak Hamilton.
Those in level 3 evacuation zones are advised that it is still not safe for them to return to their homes. A level 2 (Be Set) evacuation order is also in place from south of Fischers Mill, north of Upper Highland, east of Redland and Ridge Road and west of Mattoon and Fellows Road in Estacada.
The American Red Cross has set up shelters for affected residents at yellow parking lot 2 of Clackamas Community College, 19600 Molalla Avenue in Oregon City, and Clackamas County Red Soils Campus, 2051 Kaen Road.
Canby Fire established a Fire Operations Center at its headquarters on South Pine Friday, called on additional personnel and staged apparatus and equipment to respond to disasters related to the weather event and red flag conditions as needed.
“Canby Fire is fully staffed with off-duty personnel and volunteers,” Davis told the Current. “All three stations are staffed 24 hours and will be through the remainder of Saturday. All Canby chief officers are either working at the [McIver] fire, dispatch center or staffing at Canby Fire District.”
Davis, who also serves as a regional fire defense board chief, said mutual aid partners were quick to assist in the Milo McIver response, and also praised the work and cooperation of Canby city, police and utility personnel in responding to local incidents.
High temperatures approaching the low triple digits, low humidity, continued east winds are predicted through Saturday evening, and Davis urged residents to refrain from making outdoor fires of any kind.
Residents who have lost power and have medical conditions requiring oxygen are asked to call the Canby Fire District at 503-266-5851 or 9-1-1 for a life-threatening emergency, or stop by at 221 South Pine Street.
Davis said the district’s annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony, scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, would go on as planned. Elsewhere in Canby, the Wild Hare Saloon’s final entry in its outdoor summer concert series, feature Shoot to Thrill and Jukebox Heroes, was also still on for 7 p.m. Saturday.
The region is under red flag warning fire conditions for the second straight day due to high winds, poor air quality, high temperatures, low humidity and dry tinder and fuels.
At approximately 5 a.m. Saturday, Portland General Electric announced it was conducting additional public safety power shutoffs to help reduce the risk of wildfires, upping the number of affected homes to 37,000 in Clackamas County and surrounding areas.
The five new preventive power outages occurred in limited portions of southwest Scotts Mills, south Molalla, George, Colton and Sandy, affecting approximately 1,675 customers.
These areas were at higher risk of fire given unique and extreme weather conditions, PGE officials said, including strong wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour, which also necessitated a location change for one community resource center locations.
Shutoff decisions are made in partnership with local government partners and fire agencies to help protect people and property by mitigating fire potential as strong dry winds, low relative humidity and an unstable atmosphere exacerbate fire conditions statewide.
Current forecasts predict extreme weather conditions to subside this afternoon, PGE said, and unless the conditions change or there is extensive damage to utilities that needs to be repaired, power restoration could begin as early as Saturday evening.
“Damage to our equipment and/or system could delay efforts to restore power to customers,” the utility said in a news release. “PGE will continue providing updates at least every 24 hours until power is fully restored.”
Community resource centers will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, until power is fully restored to the areas. Information, bottled water, ice, access to charging for personal devices and wireless internet will be available. More information is available on portlandgeneral.com/psps.
The locations include Welches Elementary School, 24901 East Salmon River Road; Firwood Elementary School, 42900 SE Trubel Road in Sandy; Silverton Safeway, 301 Westfield Street; Jim’s Thriftway, 12350 NW Main Street in Banks; and Sheridan High School, 433 S Bridge Street.
The State of Oregon and several counties are also providing resources. Call 2-1-1 or 1-866-698-6155 for a complete list of resources in impacted areas.
Area fire districts spent much of Friday responding to grass field fires that broke out in rural areas, including Knights Bridge and Fawver Road in Canby and two sites in Molalla.
The fire in Canby was sparked by farm machinery and received mutual-aid assists from Canby and Molalla. Molalla Fire also thanked passing Good Samaritans for their help in putting out brush fires that broke out along the roadside.
“We want to make sure that everybody understands how volatile this weather can be,” Canby Fire said on Friday. “High temperatures along with low humidity and high winds are a recipe for rapid fire spread. Thank you, firefighters, for your rapid response!”
The Vitae Springs Road Fire in Salem, which started late Friday afternoon, also resulted in multiple Level 3 and 2 evacuation notices. Approximately 119 single family residences are located within the level 3 evacuation area, and there have been no reported injuries or structures lost as of this morning.
An additional 516 homes in Marion and Polk Counties are under a level 2 advisory. Those impacted by the fire can go to Judson Middle School, 4512 Jones Road Southeast in Salem, for resources and help.
“As of this morning, the fire is concentrated in a heavily wooded area, which is challenging to access due to the steep terrain,” Marion County fire officials reported Saturday. “The area remains under a red flag warning with the potential for high winds in the forecast through late Saturday evening.”
Much of the state is also under an air quality advisory from the Department of Environmental Quality through at least Monday due to fires across Oregon and in central Idaho.
Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. People most at risk include infants and young children, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and pregnant people.
Residents are advised to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones, including staying inside if possible, and keeping windows and doors closed. If it’s too hot, run air conditioning on recirculate or consider moving to a cooler location. Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.
Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions on the Oregon Smoke Information Blog, DEQ’s Air Quality Index, or by downloading the free OregonAIR app (available on Google Play and the Apple App Store).
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