Fire Encroaching on Estacada; Air Quality Warnings Statewide

Despite a more optimistic view from local fire officials on the continuing wildfire crisis raging through Clackamas County, the Willamette Valley and other parts of the state, the evolving situation remains active and dangerous, and air quality in the area is becoming a growing concern.

Canby and Oregon City remain on “stand-by mode” in level 2 evacuation status, though officials are looking at whether that should change, Canby Fire Division Chief Matt English reported Saturday.

“A priority has been put on assessing the evacuation levels and we should know within the next 24 hours if there will be any reduction,” English told the Current.

Incident command is working on this with Clackamas County and English hopes to have an update within the next 24 hours.

“I will be on the meeting again with them tomorrow and will be able to send out the newest update,” English said Saturday morning.

The main concern with reducing evacuation levels is to avoid the scenario in which the conditions change and areas must be “re-evacuated” due to fire spread, he explained.

The inversion over the fires in southeastern Clackamas County are expected to stop ventilation and keep the fire from burning hotter, English said, although the smoke and air quality issues the region is experiencing are not expected to improve yet.

Life safety remains the priority in fighting the human-caused Riverside Fire, which has covered 130,052 acres with 0% contained, incident command reported Friday night. On a positive note, fire crews are reportedly “shifting from defense to offense” in an effort to turn the tide in a battle that has raged since Monday.

With the help of favorable weather conditions Friday, firefighters were able to create containment lines around two fingers of the Riverside Fire that came within a half-mile of Estacada. Wind shifts, a marine layer and the fire’s own smoke providing shading, gave crews more opportunities to build firelines.

Although aircraft were limited due to smoke, a drone was used Friday to help conduct aerial reconnaissance of the fire. Fire managers continue to focus on protecting firefighter and public life-safety, conducting reconnaissance, and point protection for structures where they can do so safely and effectively.

With numerous wildland fires burning across Oregon and the West, resources continue to be stretched thin. An Area Command Team is now in place in the Clackamas County area. Area command provides more oversight over incidents and assists in prioritizing needs to all incidents.

Fires were within two miles of Estacada and six miles southeast of Molalla, officials reported Saturday.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Saturday extended an air quality advisory for the entire state due to smoke levels that are fluctuating between unhealthy for sensitive groups and hazardous.

Smoke throughout the Willamette Valley will remain “Unhealthy” to “Hazardous” throughout Saturday, the Forest Service said. The heavy inversion over the fire area is not expected to lift out of the area much, and east transport winds will continue to bring smoke into the Willamette Valley Saturday morning.

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