Fire, Oregon, Washington County

Monday, September 14 fire update

Smoke hovers above Gales Peak on Wednesday, September 9, 2020. Photo: Chas Hundley

Here are the most recent updates from official sources regarding local Washington County and Clackamas County fires. Check out the State of Oregon Fires and Hotspots Dashboard for maps, evacuation levels, and more information on fires locally and throughout the state. 

Powerline Fire

The final update, barring an unforeseen change in conditions, from the Oregon Department of Forestry on the 126 acre Powerline Fire near Cherry Grove was issued Sunday afternoon. 

According to the update, “the Powerline Fire is well secured,” and all evacuation orders were lifted at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Read our full story here

Sunday evening, the Gaston Fire District also issued an update on the fire, the first since they resumed command from the ODF. “We were able to protect all structures, with zero loses. We are very proud of our crews and the many others that helped out. We want to say thank you to all of the many public and private entities that responded and worked on the fire lines to get this fire under control,” the district wrote. 

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Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak Fire

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue said that all level three evacuations at the Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak Fire, which straddles the Washington and Yamhill County lines, were lifted on Sunday evening, which means no homes in Washington County are under a level three evacuation order. Some homes remained under a level 2 evacuation order near Scholls and in Yamhill County. 

The fire is at 75% containment as of 1 p.m. Sunday, with about 30 TVF&R crews on site on Sunday, mopping up hot spots at the fire with additional ODF crews.

Clackamas County Fires

Evacuation levels in Clackamas County were significantly reduced on Sunday, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, with many urban areas taken off the evacuation area entirely. 

Oregon State Fire Marshal departs 

The state of Oregon’s response to the wildfires took an unexpected turn over the weekend, with a series of actions surrounding the top fire official in the state, now-former Oregon State Fire Marshal Jim Walker, who was placed on paid administrative leave with no explanation, and then resigned by Saturday hours later. Mariana Ruiz-Temple was appointed to the post immediately after his resignation. 

 Repeated requests by this newspaper for more information from the Oregon State Police have been ignored. Other media reports have interviews from former Fire Marshal Walker recounting his view on what happened. More information can be found in our original story regarding the resignation. 

Rumors of coordinated arson ring untrue, says FBI Portland

A rumor circulating in right-leaning circles of a coordinated attack by Antifa to light fires throughout the state is untre, says the FBI Portland office, local, and state law enforcement agencies. 

“FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon. With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue. Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control. Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources,” the FBI said. 

Weather and smoke: What’s next? 

Air quality is expected to remain extremely poor today; an Air Quality Alert issued by the Portland branch of the National Weather Service is in effect until at least noon today. 

Long term, smoke is expected to linger at least through the middle of the week. In other weather news, rain is expected to begin on Monday and continue to some degree throughout the work week. 

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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