Tribal Government & News

Willamina Creek Fire almost fully surrounded by fire lines

08.21.2015 Dean Rhodes Natural Resources, Public Safety

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

An estimated 140-acre fire nine miles north of Willamina will be fully surrounded by a fire line and mop-up activities will be well underway by the end of Friday, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

“Fire managers want to have strong containment lines complete before the weather change, which is expected on Saturday,” the department said in a press release.

The Willamina Creek Fire started at approximately 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, on land protected by the Department of Forestry. It currently has burned about 140 acres of heavily timbered land in Yamhill County and is currently burning heavy fuels on private timberland and Bureau of Land Management property.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde activated its Emergency Operations Team on Wednesday evening since the fire was less than five miles from the Reservation boundary and about 10 miles from the community of Grand Ronde.

The Tribe’s Emergency Operations Team, headed by Emergency Operations Coordinator Jamie Baxter, met again several times on Thursday to monitor the fire’s progress.

Tribal Council authorized the Emergency Operations Team to handle the situation and directed Tribal staff to cooperate. “Tribal Council continues to monitor the situation and remains fully engaged and informed,” said Tribal Council Chair Reyn Leno.

The Forestry Department reported that the fire is about 10 percent contained. The cause remains under investigation.

More than 226 personnel helped battle the blaze and included state employees, as well as units from Yamhill County and its cities and towns.

Four cabins along East Creek Road remain under a mandatory evacuation and Willamina Creek and East Creek roads are closed north of the junction with Coast Creek Road. No injuries have been reported.

In reaction to the fire, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde closed its Reservation and timber lands on Thursday morning as tinder dry conditions and no forecast of rain continue in western Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Forestry has requested that the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department personnel assist it by covering Forestry’s patrol areas in Yamhill County while state personnel battle the blaze.

The Tribe sent 100 cases of water to Sheridan on Wednesday afternoon to assist those fighting the fire.

In addition, the Tribe’s Health & Wellness Clinic is prepared to assist area residents who suffer respiratory problems from any increased smoke in the air.

Over the weekend, the Natural Resources Department will have two engines staffed by two employees each patrolling the Grand Ronde community as a precaution, said Silviculture & Fire Protection Program Manager Colby Drake.

The Oregon Department of Forestry suggests the following if you plan on venturing out into forests during the weekend, which is forecast to be hot and dry:

  •        Use extreme caution;
  •        Check out fire restrictions before you head out to play;
  •        Bring the required tools – a shovel plus one gallon of water or a 2.5-pound fire extinguisher;
  •        Refrain from engaging in any activity that would create a new fire start. Nationwide, fire resources are stretched thin.

For more information on the fire, contact the Oregon Department of Forestry at 503-934-8153.