Triple-digit temperatures and ominous creamsicle-colored skies are making for a tough go this week in the Southern Willamette Valley, prompting residents to lay low, avoid the smoke, and keep an eye on forecast and fire evacuation notices.
Most cities in our area are suffering from “unhealthy” air conditions. By noon Tuesday, Springfield, Creswell, and Pleasant Hill were sitting at 173 – colored red on the index and 27 points away from “very unhealthy” status. Cottage Grove’s air quality fared better earlier this week with the index reading 50 – colored yellow and sitting on the low end of “moderate.”
Conditions change frequently; continue to visit airnow.gov and plug in your zip code for the most up-to-date information.
The smoke choking our skies is largely coming from two major fires: Lookout and Bedrock wildfires, and the dreaded “Level 3: Go now” evacuation notice has been issued for some residents in the fire’s scope.
Bedrock Fire has been burning since July 22. Earlier this week, smoke shaded the Bedrock Fire, lowering temperatures slightly and moderating fire behavior. The smoke also prevented helicopters from safely flying. Unusually dry fuels, steep slopes, and gusty winds have contributed to rapid fire growth. The cause of this fire is still under investigation.
The Bedrock Fire is located approximately 25 miles away from Pleasant Hill, 35 miles away from Springfield and Creswell, and 45 miles away from Cottage Grove.
Firefighters have noted “very challenging weather conditions.” This week, easterly winds carried embers, causing new fire spots three-quarters of a mile from the main fire in some locations. The Oregon State Fire Marshall has structural fire protection engines that will be protecting homes in the Fall Creek area. Firefighters are holding and securing containment lines around the northern and eastern fire perimeters and are continuing to mop up and secure fire lines on the southern and southeastern fire perimeters.
Wild land firefighters and structural fire engine crews from the Oregon State Fire Marshal are doing preparation work around residences in Big Fall Creek, creating dozer lines around structures, installing networks of fire hoses, pumps, and sprinkler systems, and removing brush close to homes. Level 3 evacuations were issued for Big Fall Creek Road east of the intersection with Peninsula Road. More evacuation info here: Tinyurl.com/BedrockFireEvacuations
Acres burned: 25,780
Personnel Deployed: 1,071
Evacuation levels: Up to Level 3 (Go now)
Non-emergency line: 541-682-2055 and 541-414-6272
Lookout Fire is a relatively fresh fire, having started on Aug. 5 about three miles north of McKenzie Bridge as a result of a lightning strike. It remained relatively manageable, having only grown 195 acres in eight days.
That is, until a perfect storm of weather conditions over the weekend kicked up the fire considerably, having grown over 1,000 acres in 24 hours. And as of Tuesday, the fire has consumed over 2,720 acres and has not been contained.
The fire is located approximately 50 miles away from Springfield and Pleasant Hill, 65 miles away from Creswell, and 70 miles away from Cottage Grove. Task Forces are being pulled from all over the state, including from Clatsop, Tillamook, Lane, Clackamas, Deschutes, Yamhill, and Marion counties. Structure crews have been establishing situational awareness, assessing structural access, and beginning surface preparations.
The fire has backed down to Lookout Creek. Firefighters will use the creek as an anchor point to prevent fire spread. Aviation suppression resources will continue to be used to slow fire activity while crews work on the ground.
Firefighters are working on the south end of the fire and working near homes on Taylor and North Bank roads. Evacuation levels were bumped up to Level 3 north of Highway 126 between Blue River Reservoir Road and Drury Lane. More evacuation info here: tinyurl.com/LookoutFireEvacuations
Acres burned: 2,720
Personnel Deployed: 403
Non-emergency line for evacuation and other information: 541-682-2055
The Chronicle will update this information daily on its website.
Heat wave, cooling shelters
The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Watch since Sunday, a warning that is expected to last at least through the end of the week. Medical providers are urging residents to be informed and take precautions around the heat.
“These kinds of record-high temperatures aren’t something people in the Northwest are used to dealing with on a regular basis,” said Dr. Margaret Pattison, medical director of the emergency department at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. “They often forget to protect themselves or don’t recognize the symptoms when they are experiencing a heat-related illness. It’s so important to be informed and take precautions because conditions such as heat stroke can be life-threatening.”
Facilities and organizations have opened up its doors to those needing a place to escape the heat, including:
• Springfield Public Library / Springfield City Hall, 225 5th St.: Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Saturday and Sunday; Monday and Tuesday, 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; and Wednesday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
• Bob Keefer Center, 250 S. 32nd St, Springfield. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
• Willamalane Adult Activity Center, 215 W. C St, Springfield. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Oregon Dept. Human Services, 101 30th St., Springfield . Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Cottage Grove Community Center / Library, 700 E. Gibbs Ave. Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. There will be a backup generator in use to power the air conditioning in the event of a power outage.
• Cottage Grove City Hall, 400 E. Main St. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5p.m. Hours may be extended depending on temperatures. There will be a backup generator in use to power the air conditioning in the event of a power outage.
• Oregon Department of Human Services, 305 Coop Ct., Cottage Grove. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Signs of heat exhaustion
• Cool, pale or clammy skin
• Heavy sweating
A person experiencing these symptoms should move to a cooler place; drink small amounts of water; remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths to the skin. If the person vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 911.
Signs of heat stroke
• Hot, red skin
• Rapid breathing
• Racing pulse
• Changes in consciousness
• Lack of sweating, despite the heat.
Call 911 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in a tub of cool water, spraying them with cold water, or covering the person with cold, wet cloths.
Prevent heat-related illnesses
• Children or pets should never be left in a vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.
• Stay hydrated throughout the day. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol. Don’t drink large amounts of plain water all at once — this can lead to water-toxicity.
• Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
• Those who don’t have air conditioning, should seek relief from the heat.
• Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
• Stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.