Due to possible hazardous weather conditions, including rain, wind, potential lightning and hail, operations are suspended for all utility companies and non-essential people entering the Level 3 evacuation area and all areas within the fire footprint starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Forestry.
The suspension is in effect until 6 p.m. Friday. Depending on weather conditions the suspension of activity may be extended in 24-hour increments, the release said.
Officials are concerned about fire-weakened trees and rocks falling into the roadway or other areas. Homeowners who have chosen not to evacuate are directed to remain at home or evacuate during this weather event and not travel the road system within the fire perimeter, the release said. Previously issued road access permits may be temporarily suspended and access denied during these periods.
No utility crews except those directly related to the Highway 126 snagging operation or Leaburg Dam operations will be allowed in the fire areas during this time.
The weather may also dictate the number of fire resources assigned to the fire, according to the forestry department.
Evacuation level downgraded for some McKenzie Bridge residents
The Level 3 (“go now”) evacuation level for certain residents in the McKenzie Bridge area has been downgraded to a Level 2 (“be set”), Lane County government said in a news release Thursday.
The area includes:
- East King Road, Drury Drive and Delta Drive.
- Belknap Bridge remains closed.
- Traffic for East King Road and Delta Drive must use Horse Creek Road.
Residents should be aware that the change to Level 2 reflects that fire danger has only subsided in that area enough to allow residents access to the area so they can make additional preparations for their homes, livestock or other animals. They should expect that if fire behavior increases these areas may return to Level 3 and residents must be able to leave again at a moment’s notice.
Level 2 means there is significant danger to your area and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family/friends outside of the affected area and be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Emergency responders may not have time to provide additional notice if danger increases.
Rep. DeFazio, FEMA administrator and Lane County commissioner visit destruction at Blue River
Rep. Peter DeFazio, FEMA Region 10 Administrator Michael O’Hare and Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch toured the Holiday Farm Fire destruction of Blue River and the Mckenzie Valley on Thursday morning.
DeFazio later spoke at Thurston Middle School about the rush to remove hazardous waste from the fire to prevent leeching and water contamination into the McKenzie River — Eugene’s main source of drinking water — that must happen over the next few weeks.
DeFazio remarked that McKenzie High School is “pretty much all that’s left in Blue River” and that this easily could have been like the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.
O’Hare recapped the wraparound services that are being provided to evacuees at this point and how to register with FEMA as soon as possible. Buch reminded people o the hazard of trying to return to the burn site and how traffic in the area hinders active firefighting efforts.
“I want to prepare the community for when they do eventually get to see the land again. It will be very different from what they originally remember the Mckenzie River corridor to look like,” Buch said.
Holiday Farm Fire 10% contained, missing down to 3
As of Thursday morning, the Holiday Farm Fire was 10% contained with 812 crew members working on the fire.
Data on the fire’s acreage remains unchanged — at just over 170,000 acres — as there was no overnight flight to assess the fire’s size, according to OSFM spokesman Damon Simmons.
Search and rescue missions were ongoing, Simmons said, and the current number of people missing was three, down from well over 100 people at one point, Simmons said.
The crews’ biggest concern is the rain expected Thursday afternoon.
“At around 3 p.m. we expect a storm to start blowing through. That’s going to bring in some increased winds,” he said. The wind typically would be concerning, but it is expected to be quickly followed by some thunder showers and heavy rain.
The heavy rain is a concern in that it might cause slides on slopes now missing vegetation because of the fire. “That creates a lot of possibilities for isolated washouts along those slopes and roads,” he said.
The crews are asking residents to stay off the roads in and around the fire area to keep them clear for firefighters who may need to quickly use the roads, Simmons said.
The rain and moisture will help dampen the fire activity, so in the long-term it will be helpful.
Simmons said he saw crews from Canada coming in Thursday, and he believes they’ll get some crews from Idaho later Thursday.
Lane County non-emergency call center reducing hours
Lane County’s non-emergency call center for residents affected by the Holiday Farm Fire is adjusting its hours to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily beginning Thursday, due to a decreasing call volume in the evening hours. Previously, the call center was available until 10 p.m.
Those with properties within the fire perimeter may call 541-682-3977 for information about their residences in the area, as well as to make other inquiries related to the fire, Lane County announced in a news release. Lane County Emergency Management and public safety partners continue to perform structural assessments on homes within the fire perimeter, and an initial collection of assessment information is available.
A Multi-Agency Resource Center is also available for those whose homes are affected by the wildfire. The MARC is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week from noon to 7 p.m. at the Lane Events Center, 796 W. 13th Ave. The center includes representatives from utility companies, Lane County elections, insurance companies, housing support agencies, Senior and Disabled Services, Environmental Health, Lane County Assessment and Taxation, waste and debris disposal coordinators, permit and land management staff, faith-based services and support, as well as mental health and medical support.
Those affected by the Holiday Farm Fire can also call helplines offering emotional and disaster stress support or visit the Graduate Hotel for in-person crisis support through Lane County Behavioral Health:
Emotional Support Line: 1-800-923-HELP (4357)
Disaster Stress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. This line is available in 100 languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In-person crisis support with Lane County Behavioral Health: The Graduate Hotel, 66 E. Sixth Ave, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Walterville, Marcola post offices operating normally
The Walterville Post Office is open and also receiving mail for the Blue River and Vida locations. The Marcola Post Office is also operating as normal. United States Postal Service mail from fire-affected areas is no longer being diverted to the Springfield post office.
More information here.
EWEB working to restore power to Leaburg Dam area
EWEB crews, working in coordination with fire command, are continuing assessment, repair and restoration from the east end of Holden Creek Lane toward the Leaburg Dam area. This recovery phase is expected to take several days. See link for further imformation.
County opening one-stop help for Holiday Farm Fire evacuees at fairgrounds
As crews made progress on assessing structures, the county debuted a new centralized resource “one-stop shop” for evacuees at the Lane County Events Center.
Resources and information for evacuees — including the status of their homes and businesses in the assessed area — made its way toward consolidation Wednesday, too.
Lane County opened up a Multi-Agency Resource Center at the county fairgrounds this week, which is meant to be a one-stop shop for what people impacted by the fire could need.
“They’ve been already moved out of their own immediate community and are now here in the metro center at various different hotels,” Lane County Commissioners Chair Heather Buck said. “So we want to make it easy for them to get all the resources in one space.”
The center will be open from noon to 7 p.m. through Friday. Counselors will meet people at check-in when they arrive. Once they go inside the center, they’ll be able to find information including assessments of homes and other buildings, insurance help, veteran services, and senior and disability services, Buck said. McKenzie School District will be also at the center passing out Chromebooks for students.
Booths for resources are spread out to still account for distance between people, and the county is only allowing about 100 people inside the center at a time on account of COVID-19.
“But we know that there are thousands of individuals who are affected in the fire area and our hope is to see most of them come over the next three days,” said county spokesperson Devon Ashbridge.
This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Updates: Non-essential activity suspended at Holiday Farm Fire ahead of storm