Fairgrounds Busy as Wildfires Rage Across County

Stalls lined with horses peeking out curiously; arenas filled with llamas, pigs, sheep, goats and more horses; walls lined with kennels containing dogs, cats, rabbits, ducks, doves, turtles and anything else you can imagine. If you didn’t know any better, you might forget that they canceled the Clackamas County Fair this year.

“It does feel like the fair,” laughs Nancy Parkers, of Mulino. “There’s just as many animals, and it’s just as busy.”

Parkers is indeed busy. Even as she recounts her harrowing flight from her home Tuesday afternoon to a visiting reporter, she never stops moving. It’s feeding time.

Photo by Tyler Francke.

Parkers, who runs a pet boarding house called Critter Nanny, was already up to her ears in furry and feathered critters before the wildfires raging across much of Clackamas County dumped even more in her lap.

She has spent most of the past two days in a small building at the county fairgrounds being used as an emergency shelter, surrounded by kennels containing seven cats and seven dogs (not all of them hers), a dove and a handicapped duck.

“He’s had a broken leg for about eight years,” Parkers says.

Photo by Tyler Francke.

There’s also a rabbit, who was evidently driven to Parkers’ side out of fear of the fires destroying its natural home.

“He’s a wild rabbit, not tame,” she says. “But he came right up to me when we were evacuating. He stood by me and let me put him in a porter. We just thought he wanted to come with us.”

She also has three horses and 35 other ducks and chickens, but they’re housed in other parts of the fairgrounds property.

Photo by Tyler Francke.

Parkers’ case is all too common for the hundreds who have taken shelter here, and for the thousands who have been displaced. Level 3 evacuation means “leave now,” but that’s easier said than done for many of the residents in rural parts of the county — most of whom raise animals for their livelihood, for food and for pleasure.

Some of the animals at the fairgrounds come from prized bloodlines, that would have been destined for blue ribbons and a hefty price tag — had we actually had a fair this year.

After settling in, Parkers said most of her animals are doing well.

Photo by Tyler Francke.

“They’ve got lots of constant companionship,” she says. “They love to be touched and given attention. They feel safe here.”

It hasn’t been bad digs for the two-legged residents, either.

“It’s been magnificent,” she says. “People have been helping each other out. Everybody’s been really good. And the people running the fairgrounds have been amazing. They might be tired, but they don’t stop. For such a horrible, scary thing that’s happened, this has been really wonderful.”

Photo by Tyler Francke.

How much longer she might be able to stay is not entirely clear. Canby was put on level 2 evacuation Thursday afternoon, which meant the fairgrounds could no longer offer itself as an evacuation site under the county’s emergency management plan, though the animals could stay, if needed.

No one was being forced out Thursday, though many left voluntarily due to the uncertain status of the Canby area’s evacuation orders. But some, like Molalla’s James Crowe and Jill Tufto, had no plans on leaving.

“We’re staying put,” he says. “Where can we go? There’s fire everywhere. You can’t run forever.”

James Crowe and Jill Tufto. Photo by Tyler Francke.

They fled their home on Wright Road amid the chaos of two days ago and wound up here. Like Parkers, they have lots of animals.

“Everything,” Tufto says with a laugh, when a reporter asks her what kinds. “Horses, chickens, cats, dogs, turtles. Everything.”

The water and power is out at their house, and now, they’re worried about stories they’ve heard of looters in the area.

Photo by Tyler Francke.

“This is the most insane thing ever,” Tufto says.

As Crowe picked up a wheelbarrow loaded with feed and headed toward the horse stables, he repeated that they planned to ride out the storm right here.

“What’s going to burn around here,” he asks, holding up his hands and looking around at the expansive and open fairgrounds property. “The buildings are metal. There’s gravel everywhere. We’ll be O.K.”

Photo by Tyler Francke.

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