The rains that have soaked the area over the past week have brought welcomed relief to those reeling from the raging wildfires — but they have not brought an end to them.
Incident commanders of the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County said Friday that the 138,000-acre conflagration will continue to smolder in the remnants of the thick forests it has ravaged for the better part of this month.
“While the rain has moderated fire behavior, especially in open areas where grass and brush are the primary vegetation, it will not put the fire out,” said the update from Incident Commander Noel Livingston. “Fire will continue to smolder under the tree canopy in heavier fuels like logs and stumps.”
The cooler weather and favorable conditions have aided firefighters this week as they continue to search out and extinguish hot spots close to the fire’s 90-mile-long perimeter. Containment is still estimated at 34%.
The other large fires in Clackamas County — smaller than Riverside but also much closer to communities like Colton, Molalla and Estacada — are almost completely contained.
The Wilhoit Fire is 532 acres and is 94% contained, while Dowty (1,509 acres), Unger (497 acres) and Graves Creek (46 acres) are all 100% contained.
Crews are working to reinforce existing containment lines to 250 ft within the fire imprint to ensure clean fire lines and to reduce potential for spread. Mop-up operations are ongoing for all fires, with contractors using excavators to break down berms caused by dozers on the fire line.
Crews are continuing to monitor the fire areas for downed trees and debris flows from the incoming weather.
Skies are predicted to clear and dry up this weekend and into next week. South, southwest winds are expected, with gusts on the ridgetops reaching up to 30 miles per hour.
As the weather breaks on Saturday, these areas may produce visible smoke but will not threaten fire containment, officials said. If warm and dry weather does return, activity and smoke production may increase by mid-week.
Initial attack crews responded to one fire call Friday for smoke identified within the Unger Fire imprint. Stumps and pockets will continue to smolder well into the fire imprint, even with rain events.
Residents are asked not to call 911 for smoke seen within the fire imprint unless there is active fire that is spreading or threatening a structure.
The entire Willamette Valley will see good air quality for the next few days. Areas closest to the fire perimeter may experience moderate smoke impacts in the evening when temperatures drop and pool pockets of smoldering fuels under the nighttime inversion.
Residents are cautioned to avoid driving beyond road blockades near fire areas. Officials ask that you please give firefighters space to work so they can safely move around the fire perimeter.
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