The fair may have been canceled last month, but the Clackamas County Fairgrounds has figured out a way to welcome hundreds of animals to its barns anyway this year — and help area farms and ranches at the same time.
The fairgrounds began taking in horses from evacuated or threatened areas late Monday night — as a devastating series of fires, spurred on extreme dry conditions and 40 mph winds, ravaged the Molalla, Colton and Oregon City areas.
Among them was Casey Heinrich, who arrived at the fairgrounds just after 10 p.m. with her horse, Washashi, after fleeing Two’s A Team Stables and Riding School — located about a half-mile from the RSG Forest Products lumber mill on Highway 213.
She had found a safe haven.
“It was awesome,” she said in a video posted Tuesday afternoon by County Fair Board member Greg Parker. “The lights were on; the stalls were clean. It’s wonderful.”
By Tuesday morning, the grounds had become a veritable zoo, with more than 60 horses, along with donkeys, pygmy goats, chickens — even yaks.
The Clackamas County Fairgrounds is providing emergency shelter for dozens of horses and other animals evacuated from wildfire areas last night. At least 55 horses, four donkeys on site. Possibly some yaks on the way. @ClackamasCoFair pic.twitter.com/3DpIe83HlI
This is not the first time the fairgrounds has served as an emergency shelter for fire-evacuated livestock. It also played the role during the devastating Estacada wildfire in 2014.
“We were also a shelter for the Estacada fire,” Fairgrounds Executive Director Laurie Bothwell said in the same video. “We had horses, livestock, chickens, everything come in.”
The animals are being cared for and tended to by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Posse, livestock professionals that work with the fairgrounds and the owners themselves.
Though the offers are appreciated, Bothwell said no volunteers from the community are necessary.
If you need help, call the fairgrounds at 503-266-1136.
Countless other residents were doing their part Monday night and well into Tuesday morning, driving empty trucks and trailers into the rural areas of Mollala, Mulino, Colton and Canby to evacuate people, pets and livestock.
“We are headed up to the Silverton area and Mount Angel,” said one of those volunteers, local restaurateur Claude DaCorsi. “Bringing in pallets water and Gatorade to our amazing firefighters. If anybody needs help, message us. We have trailers, trucks and flatbeds. We are able to move a lot of stuff: vehicles, property etc.”
Multiple fires have been reported in Estacada, off I-205 and in the Oregon City area, Clackamas Fire said in a press release Tuesday. Decreased visibility and the presence of multiple fire apparatus moving through the area make this a spot to avoid.
The area is still experiencing high levels of smoke due to piles still burning from the previous night.
Clackamas Fire and neighboring agencies request that all residents eliminate any open flame. If possible, create a defensible space around your home by cutting down grasses and vegetation surrounding the home and clearing away any flammable materials that may ignite.
Governor Kate Brown announced she would hold a press briefing at 3 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the wildfires raging across the Willamette Valley, including several in the Santiam Canyon that she had declared a conflagration earlier that day.
She will be joined by various statewide health and emergency services officials. The live stream will be available on her Facebook page.
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