Dire warnings about fierce winds coupled with extremely dry conditions proved prescient Monday night, as huge fires broke out in areas across the Portland area — two of the worst being a conflagration that raged at the RSG Forest Products lumber mill on Highway 213 in Molalla and a blaze that damaged four buildings and threatened an apartment complex near Clackamette Cove in Oregon City.
The three-alarm wildland fire in Oregon City, which was visible over rooftops and across the Clackamas River in Gladstone, started in an abandoned industrial building and eventually spread to three others, according to Clackamas Fire officials.
The blaze also burned approximately 12 acres of brush, Clackamas Fire reported late Monday. The fire did not spread to the nearby Edgewater on the Cove apartment complex or the Oregon City Shopping Center at Highway 99E and Interstate 205 (which contains a Coastal Farm & Ranch, Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor and a Rite Aid, among other stores).
Fire officials said no one was evacuated, though this was contradicted by reports from some residents of the complex. No injuries were reported.
The high winds were spreading fire embers more than an eighth of a mile, officials said, making it difficult for firefighters to contain.
Clackamas Fire said Tuesday morning that the fire started when high winds brought down a power line, igniting “very dry fuels.” The fire quickly spread through thick blackberry bushes and was held back at several structures.
A second fire off Bradley Road and Redland in Oregon City was contained to 10 acres over the course of six hours. Four residents had to be evacuated but were allowed to return by morning.
213 Shut Down as Lumber Mill Blazes in Molalla
In Molalla, a blaze that reportedly began when a tree fell on live wires in an open field soon crossed Highway 213 and raged at the RSG lumber mill between South Macksburg Road and Liberal Way. The fire was reportedly spreading fast and headed south toward Liberal Way as of 11 p.m., eyewitnesses told the Current.
“I live across the street from the mill,” a female resident commented on our Facebook page shortly before midnight. “We evacuated a while ago. Have no idea if our house is okay or not.”
Highway 213 was blocked off as crews from various agencies worked the scene. At least one other vegetation fire was reported on Mount Hope Road in Molalla. It was reportedly contained as of 10:30 p.m.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office reported that 213 was open again as of 2 a.m. Tuesday. However, Liberal Way was closed, as the fire had spread in that direction.
Drivers were urged to use extreme caution — or avoid the area — as crews from Canby Fire, Molalla Fire and Clackamas Fire remained at the chaotic scene.
As of noon Tuesday, the fire at the mill was reportedly contained to piles of unmilled logs, which were being allowed to burn because of the danger associated with attempting to open up the piles to put the fire out.
Update, after being closed for several hours, Hwy 213 is now open. Liberal Way is still closed. Use caution multiple fire crews working in the area. Reports of trees down on the roadway in the area@OregonDOT @ORStatePolice @CanbyFire @MolallaFire @clackamasfire #alert #fire pic.twitter.com/tBvJ61N1PH
Residents Evacuated in Molalla, Colton
At approximately 2 a.m., crews from Canby, Molalla, Clackamas and Colton gathered to battle a fire burning across an estimated 25 acres of wildland on South Unger Rd near Bauer in Colton. Reverse 911 was activated to notify residents of the immediate evacuation.
Volunteers with the Red Cross set up a staging area at Colton High School to assist evacuees.
“Red flag conditions plus high wind warning, with winds over 20 mph and gusts over 50,” said Lt. Chris Cohoon, a spokesman with the Colton Rural Protection District, told the Current early Tuesday. “It’s a tinder box and a blowtorch. Hopefully, we see the winds give a little. It’s breaking my heart.”
Another “huge fire” broke out in the area of Wilhoit Road near South Bird as residents scrambled to evacuate. At least one structure was lost, the CCSO reported at 5 a.m., though details were scarce.
Residents were notified of the danger by reverse 911. Several fire districts were on scene, including Clackamas Fire, Aurora Fire and Gladstone Fire.
Portland General Electric reports that about 40,000 residents in Clackamas County are without electricity due to high-wind and fire conditions.
Fire Rages in Santiam Canyon
Level 3 Evacuation Notices were issued to the Santiam Canyon from Mehama east to Detroit just after midnight, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported.
The evacuation notice included the communities in the North Fork corridor, Mill City, Gates, and Detroit, and was later expanded to include Idanha.
All people evacuating, including Detroit and Idanha, were asked to go west on Highway 22 toward Stayton. Highway 22 at mile post 59 was blocked.
Marion County Emergency Management coordinated with the American Red Cross to open an evacuation staging area at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.
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