Fire Chief Dismayed by Crowds, Lack of Masks at Molalla River

Chief Jim Davis was dismayed by the reports that came back from Canby firefighters following a recent medical call at Community Park on the Molalla River.

“While the firefighters were down at the park, they witnessed well over 1,000 people, very close together with no masks on and no social distancing,” Chief Davis said during a community update Wednesday night. “True, some of these might have been in family units, people you know and feel comfortable with, but we also know it might have been with a lot of friends.”

Some of those who gathered at the river that day also failed to follow parking guidelines, the chief said, which required firefighters to park their own vehicle at the entrance and walk down — significantly delaying their response.

Davis said new lines and “No Parking” signage are being installed at Community Park this week, and Canby police will be stepping up enforcement. Those who violate the parking rules may be subject to fines, citations or even being towed.

As temperatures have shot upward in recent weeks, so, too, have the numbers of those gathering at the Molalla River, especially at Community Park near Safeway, Knights Bridge Park near Canby Grove and under Goods Bridge on South Ivy Street.

The crowds, along with their apparent lack of wearing masks or following the social distancing guidelines, have been a source of concern for some in the community, particularly on social media.

But Wednesday night, Chief Davis said the gatherings have also alarmed local health and public safety officials.

“We need you to follow the social distancing [guidelines],” he said, adding that he does not believe the governor’s coronavirus orders infringe on personal rights. “We need you to wear your mask. It’s the only way we’re going to slow this down.”

Several weeks ago, Governor Kate Brown expanded her mask mandate to require face coverings even in outdoor spaces where you may not be able to maintain the physical distancing guidelines.

The chief encouraged families and individuals to take advantage of the warm weather and sunshine. Take a walk, ride a bike, go hiking, he said — just do it safely.

He began his remarks Wednesday by mentioning the loss of two lifelong Canby residents to Covid-19, people he knew personally and who contracted the virus while undergoing physical rehabilitation.

“They will be missed by their friends, family, grandkids and great-grandkids,” he said. “Could this have been prevented? Who knows. Possibly.”

He also talked of two young firefighters in Texas who recently succumbed to the coronavirus.

“For those that believe this is real, thank you for doing your part,” he said. “Thank you to the businesses of Canby and the citizens of Canby, for following the requirements of wearing masks, and to those businesses that work with people that refuse to wear masks, offering them alternative services.”

The rise in new cases of the coronavirus appears to have slowed in Canby over the past couple weeks, even as the numbers across the county and state remain far above the levels the governor’s office says would be required to safely reopen schools.

The local numbers are encouraging, Chief Davis said, but we must not get complacent.

“The Canby ZIP code is now starting to improve, but to me, one death is way too many,” he said. “I believe the Canby citizens will step up and help get this virus under control, so that we can move into phase 2 and get our kids back to school.”

See the full update from Chief Davis — along with remarks by Mayor Brian Hodson, School Superintendent Trip Goodall, State Rep. Christine Drazan, Canby Area Chamber Director Kyle Lang and Canby Foursquare Senior Pastor Ron Swor — in the video below:

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