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Riverside Fire 3% contained, dry weather may stall crews’ efforts

PORTLAND, Ore, (KOIN) — Here are the latest updates surrounding the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County:

Riverside Fire 3% contained

9:42 a.m.

Officials monitoring the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County said Wednesday the blaze is 3% contained but that a dry forecast could slow down firefighters’ efforts.

Crews are scheduled to continue to work Wednesday from the North Fork Reservoir near the community of Estacada to the Dickie Prairie area along the southwest edge of the fire — a stretch of more than 28 miles. They are tasked with building line in rugged terrain as well as beginning the process of ‘cold-trailing’ areas where a fire line has been in place for several days. Cold trailing is when firefighters take off their gloves and use their bare hand to feel for heat. If they feel heat, firefighters will continue to break up the heat source until it’s out and cold to the touch. If needed, they may also trench, or dig a small ditch below the fire on a hillside to catch any rolling debris that may hold heat.

“We currently have over 500 personnel assigned to the Riverside Fire including hand crews, engines, and bulldozers,” said Deputy Incident Commander, Dave Bales. “Their tireless work has helped us reach 3% containment as we continue to focus on protecting local communities.”

The fire area will continue to remain dry with no measurable precipitation anticipated for several days, according to officials. The weather–combined with record dry forest conditions–will continue to allow the fire to slowly creep in remote and backcountry areas such as the Roaring Fork Wilderness.  

Fight to contain Riverside Fire carries on

6:30 a.m.

Although the Riverside Fire continues to ravage thousands of acres in Clackamas County, fire officials say some containment is within reach.

As of Wednesday morning, the Riverside fire has burned more than 135,000 acres. Crews are fighting it on the west side, trying to keep it from tearing through Estacada and Molalla. Firefighters’ primary focus is on saving lives and property — meaning the eastern forested side of the fire is currently unmanned.

There’s 100 miles of fire and still no containment, but the incident commander says we should expect that to change soon. Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office will be holding a press conference to discuss the firefighting efforts at 3 p.m. Wednesday. KOIN 6 News will livestream it online.

Estacada Community Watch fire and evacuation updates

“You should start seeing containment reported, but I wouldn’t expect it to be large numbers because of the size of the fire and the amount of work that will need to be done once we start moving out of the populated areas,” Alan Sinclair said.

Farmers battle on as wildfires roar in Clackamas County. (Photo: Joe Rhoades)

Fire officials announced during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that three of the smaller fires (Wilhoit, Unger Road, and Graves Road) are 100% lined after burning a combined 1,131 acres. The Dowty Road fire is still only 30% lined at an estimated 1,452 acres. “Lined” does not mean the fires are completely out, though.

“We build the lines and then we have to patrol the lines looking for sources of heat,” Sinclair said. When crews are sure those lines will hold against any conditions, including wind, they will start calling those contained.

Another 400-acre spot fire broke out yesterday at the northern point, near Estacada. That means the fire jumped the previous containment line – and caught old logging slash on fire. Crews are conducting a 100-acre back-burn, which they say is the best way to contain it.

Overall, crews are making good progress on the northwestern side of the blaze. Fire officials confirm they will see containment lines there very soon since the northwest side is mainly hot and smoldering spots.

On the northeastern side, firefighters are continuing to scout and look at possible areas where they can have success. However, officials predict it will continue to slowly burn into the wilderness. To the south, the fire has moved rather fast over the past few days — but crews don’t anticipate it moving much further south Wednesday.

Even more out-of-state resources are on the way, as the Riverside inferno is the highest priority fire in the region. Planes or helicopters still cannot fly in the area due to the smoke, though officials do have drones up monitoring evolving smoke and fire conditions.

Clackamas County evacuations

Evacuation levels have not changed since Tuesday. When fire officials were asked when homeowners could expect to go back to Estacada — which remains at Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation orders — they said they don’t know yet.

“We know that there are those of you who have been evacuated who do want to return to your homes,” Clackamas County Disaster Management Director Nancy Bush said. “But please only return to the evacuated areas if you have been notified to do so by authorities.”

The city of Molalla, which had been at a Level 3, was reduced to a Level 2 evacuation zone Sunday evening. Several cities in the Portland metro area within Clackamas County had their evacuation levels dropped from Level 1 to normal Sunday afternoon. Areas east of Oregon City, including parts of Redland, Beavercreek and Highland, along with areas south of Sandy, including Eagle Creek, Firwood and Wildcat Mountains, were reduced from Level 3 to Level 2 evacuation zones on Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Canby, Oregon City, and Sandy were downgraded from a Level 2 to a Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuation order Saturday night. On Monday, an area south of Oregon City and Canby, that also included parts of the Mulino and Monitor areas, was reduced from Level 2 to Level 1.

Curfews for areas under Level 1 “Be Ready” were lifted on Sunday as well; however, the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew will remain in effect for communities and areas under Level 2 and 3 evacuation orders.

Authorities asked people returning home to be cautious and check for the smell of gas right away. If it’s safe, people should inspect their homes, property and outbuildings carefully for any hot spots, embers or fire damage, Bush said.

Officials also reiterated their request for Clackamas County residents to conserve water for firefighters by turning off outdoor irrigation systems, taking shorter showers and using a broom, not a hose, to clean patios and sidewalks.

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