When Level 3 (go now) evacuation warnings hit the Estacada area surrounding Milo McIver State Park, 40-year-old Angie Zeise sprang into action.
Accompanied by dozens of volunteers, Zeise helped open Molalla Buckeroo, 20 miles southwest of Estacada, as a campsite and animal shelter for those being evacuated. Zeise arrived at 1 a.m. Saturday, about four hours after the fire started in McIver Park, and hasn’t left since.
“We only had two groups of animals, but we had lots of volunteers and donations,” Zeise said. “I’m really proud of the support from the community. We’ve been there, now we can give back.
Volunteers reported that one of the groups that dropped animals had trouble finding accommodation that allowed dogs and cats, so they had to stay at a motel in Portland.
Scott Keyser, Mayor of Molalla, was also at Buckeroo to help organize the volunteer effort. He reported that people are still optimistic, despite the smoke-filled sky. The campsite can accommodate around 150 campers if needed.
“If someone is evacuated, we are there for them and we can house their animals,” Keyser said.
The Estacada Fire Department responded to the blaze around 9 p.m. Friday night. At that time, it was about the size of a football field, according to Clackamas Fire Department spokesman Izak Hamilton. It spread quickly, reaching around 25 acres before firefighters could bring it under control.
By Saturday afternoon, fire lines had been established and the spread of the fire had slowed. With warm winds expected until around 11 p.m. Saturday, firefighters said they were still concerned that conditions could change. No estimate has been given as to when residents will be able to return home.
“We have a pretty good stop on it now, but I use the word ‘stop’ lightly,” Hamilton said. “As we are here right now, that word means nothing.”
Crews from multiple counties came to help fight the blaze, and a third-party helicopter was on standby in case firefighters needed aerial support. The pilot, Marco Gnos, had also helped with the Rum Creek and Cedar Creek fires earlier this week.
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“Fire seasons are getting longer and spreading faster,” Gnos said. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years, and over the past five years I’ve noticed things getting worse.”
Hamilton said the structures burned, but could not say what type or how many were damaged.
About 550 homes were evacuated, with Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputies going door to door in some areas to evacuate residents. Many locals remembered the massive Riverside Wildfire in 2020. Hamilton said the fire helped better prepare fire crews to stave off these new wildfires.
“We all went through this two years ago,” Zeise said. “I led the fire evacuation at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds for about 16 days.”
For Mandy Boyle, 37, the Milo McIver State Park fire brought back similar memories of the catastrophic fire of 2020, which destroyed much of her property.
“It was devastating,” Boyle said of the Riverside fire. “We had absolutely nowhere to go. We have lost vehicles. It was horrible. I just wasn’t ready to start over.
Boyle said she first saw the McIver fire as a bright spot on a hill Friday night. She lives near Highway 224 and periodically came down to check on progress as the fire grew and grew, she said.
When Boyle saw the evacuation notice for the area where her three horses were boarded around 11 p.m., she said, “That may have put me in a bit of a panic mode.”
“I decided to go upstairs and get my horses,” she said, “and we only have a two-horse trailer and three good-sized horses.”
Boyle’s fiancé and sister were able to bring two of the horses back to his property, where they placed the animals in a temporary fence. Boyle said all of his fences and most of his trees burned in the Riverside Fire.
Boyle stayed with her 30-year-old horse and her little dog in the pasture for about four hours, trying to figure out what to do.
“I was so stressed out,” she said. “I couldn’t reach anyone”
Finally, she posted a message on the Estacada Locals Facebook page asking for help and a woman and her daughter came to pick up Boyle’s horse.
“Our community is one of the best,” Boyle said of the response she received when asking for help. “People are so helpful and friendly. They really saved me. »
It’s a small bright spot in a distressing reality for locals – another fire even though the damage from the last one has yet to be repaired.
“I can’t believe all of our parks here are gone,” Boyle said. “They were basically set on fire.”
–Austin De Dios; [email protected]; @austindedios; (503) 319-9744
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