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Rain brings good news for firefighters

36 Pit Fire now 30 percent contained

Photo Credit: ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Bruce Holloway, Washington Incident Management Team Commander, updates reporters on the 36 Pit Fire Wednesday morning. Firefighters are taking advantage of the rain, lighter wind and cooler temperatures to make progress toward containing the 36 Pit Fire burning on 4,104 acres about 8 miles east of Estacada.

“This weather is really a godsend,” Incident Commander Bruce Holloway said during the Thursday morning press briefing. “We’re getting into the mop up stage of the fire.”

Holloway said he felt confident that fire personnel will be able to make enough progress with fire lines and mop up operations to put out hot spots near the fire lines to be ready for when the weather is expected to return to hotter and windier conditions this weekend.

Photo Credit: WASHINGTON INCIDENT MANAGEMENT TEAM 2 - Fire and emergency officials display a map of the 36 Pit Fire at a press briefing at Timber Park in Estacada, Oregon.Holloway said firefighters on Wednesday were prioritizing efforts at stopping the fire’s spread on the north and west flanks, the areas closest to homes threatened by the fire.

The fire was 30 percent contained as of Thursday morning, Sept. 18, and no structures had been damaged or destroyed.

Previously evacuated homes were downgraded from a Level 3 mandatory evacuation to a Level 2 evacuation.

Those in Level 2 evacuation areas were cautioned to be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

Photo Credit: ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Silver Fox RV Park residents were forced to evacuate Sunday, Sept. 14 when the 36 Pit Fire threatened the structures in the park. Residents were allowed to return home Thursday but remain under a Level 2 evacuation. Authorities say residents in Level 2 evacuation areas should still be ready to leave at a moments notice.Residents who had been evacuated from Southeast Fall Creek Road and Michaels Road were allowed to return home Wednesday, and Silver Fox RV Park residents were able to go home Thursday.

The areas still remain in Level 2 evacuation and were warned to be ready to leave immediately.

Shelter overwhelmed with donations

Many evacuees had been staying at an American Red Cross shelter at the Estacada First Baptist Church.

Thirty seven evacuees stayed at the shelter Tuesday evening and 31 people stayed Wednesday.

The church received so many donations of supplies and food for the evacuees that they have asked people to stop dropping off items.

“Right now the church is over full of donated goods and food. Please refrain from bringing anything down. When things change, there will be a high need for the folks that are currently displaced. We will let you know when we can receive or distribute goods and food for families returning home,” the church posted on its Facebook page.

Similarly, community members have donated so much food to fire personnel that that the responders have started giving the donated food to other organizations before it spoils.

Estacada city officials have asked those eager to help to consider donating instead to other community organizations such as the Estacada Area Food Bank or the Estacada Senior/Community Center.

Photo Credit: PLATZ PHOTOGRAPHY - The 36 Pit Fire has burning since the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 13. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though authorities suspect it was started by target shooting near Milepost 36 of Highway 224.

36 Pit Fire

The fire is believed to have been started in a rock quarry near Milepost 36 of Highway 224 on Saturday, Sept. 13. The cause is still under investigation.

Forest Service officials have previously said the fire is believed to be caused by target shooting.

The 36 Pit Fire spread rapidly from what was first reported as 30-acres on Saturday evening, to more than 1,000 Sunday and continued to grow rapidly Monday and Tuesday, though the spread has since dramatically slowed.

The wildfire has been burning on either side of Highway 224 along the Clackamas River roughly between the south fork of the river to the northwest and Carter Bridge Campground to the southeast.

Photo Credit: PLATZ PHOTOGRAPHY - Estacada Fire Corps Volunteer Jami Platz rode along with Estacada Fire personnel and captured this dramatic photo of the 36 Pit Fire on Monday, Sept. 15.The fire has mainly burned in the Mt. Hood National Forest, but also has crossed onto Bureau of Land Management property and private lands in the northwest area of the fire.

The steep, rocky terrain of much of the area has presented a challenge to firefighters.

Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a conflagration on Sept. 15, allowing the State Fire Marshal Incident Management Team and structural protection task forces from throughout the state to battle the 36 Pit Fire.

However, officials announced that the Oregon Fire Marshal Blue Team will depart Thursday afternoon as they are confident remaining fire personnel will be able to protect structures.

In total, 810 people, 22 crews, four helicopters and 36 engines from various agencies are currently battling the flames according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

The data reflects the latest information as of 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, and may not show resources that have arrived or departed since.

Photo Credit: PLATZ PHOTOGRAPHY - The 36 Pit Fire has caused dangerous conditions in areas along Highway 224. The wildfire has loosened boulders and trees and even activated landslides making certain areas hazardous for responders to navigate.

Dangerous road conditions

Highway 224 remains closed near the fire area except to emergency vehicles.

The fire has made conditions dangerous on Highway 224, so Holloway said residents can expect it to be closed even after firefighters leave.

The wildfire has loosened boulders and trees and even activated landslides making certain areas hazardous for responders to navigate.

Estacada School District

After clearing up a bit Wednesday, the cloud of smoke and ash was back in force Thursday morning, though the air quality is expected to improve later Thursday and on Friday.

The Estacada School District again canceled outdoor activities and all aerobic activities for school children and had masks available for students walking between buildings for classes.

“As of 7 this morning (Thursday, Sept. 18), the air quality in Estacada has worsened and is now in the ‘unhealthy range,’ ” Superintendent Marla Stephenson wrote in a letter posted on the district’s website. “There will not be any outside PE/activities until further notice. We ask that all students remain indoors, unless walking between site buildings (masks are available at the school offices), keep outside doors and all windows shut.”

The district was forced to take similar action Monday and Tuesday of this week because of poor air quality levels in the Estacada area from wildfire smoke.

Stephenson said that the district is continuing to monitor the air quality near the schools.

Photo Credit: ESTACADA NEWS: TROY WAYRYNEN - The sun was partially obscured by heavy smoke in Estacada on Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Air quality in Estacada

Clackamas County Emergency Operations Center issued a warning on Sunday, Sept. 14 that wildfire smoke may increase risk for adults and children with respiratory illness or a heart condition.

The center has urged Estacada area residents to drink lots of water, reduce the amount of time spent outdoors and to avoid vigorous outdoor physical activity.

The center also recommends minimizing the use of indoor air pollutants such as burning cigarettes and candles or the use of gas, propane and wood burning stoves and furnaces, cooking and vacuuming.

Anyone experiencing health problems from the smoke should contact their health provider or seek urgent care or call 9-1-1 in the case of a medical emergency.

Timber Lake Job Corps

The Timber Lake Job Corps, which is about 8 miles Southeast of the 36 Pit Fire, temporarily lost power but it has since been restored.

The Job Corps was never evacuated, and staff and students are back to their lessons despite still spotty phone service.

The Job Corps is no longer accessible by Highway 224 but can be reached through an alternate detour route.

36 Pit Fire incident commanders issued a press release stated that the fire is not threatening the Timber Lake Job Corps.

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