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Press Briefing Update on Clackamas County Wildfires: 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15

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Clackamas County and our partners held a 30-minute press conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15 in the Board of Clackamas County Commissioners hearing room, 4th floor, 2051 Kaen Road, Oregon City, 97045. The room was opened at 2:45 p.m. for media.

Speakers included:

  • Captain Brandon Paxton
    Clackamas Fire Public Information Officer (emcee)
  • Alan Sinclair
    Southwest Incident Management Team Incident Commander
  • Nancy Bush
    Clackamas County Disaster Management Director
  • Christine Hollenbeck
    Clackamas River Water Providers
  • Dr. Jeffrey Anderson
    Clackamas County Behavioral Health
  • Special guest
    Jazzi, a Golden Retriever therapy dog from HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response

Transcript

Brandon Paxton
Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us. My name is Brandon Paxton on behalf of the Oregon State Fire
Marshal's office here today to provide some updates for 3 p.m. on the Sept. 15 regarding the Clackamas Wildfires. We have a number of speakers, I’ll outline those right now with us today is Alan Sinclair of the Southwest Incident Management Team, he's the Incident Commander out there; Nancy Bush of Clackamas County Disaster Management; Christine Hollenbeck, Clackamas River Water providers; Dr. Jeffrey Anderson Clackamas County Behavior Health; and a special guest Jazzy a golden retriever who's here to talk about a little bit of mental health. So really today the goal is to provide a general update as to the fire conditions and any changes there are. There are no changes in evacuation levels but really today the focus is around evacuation orders being lifted as they have over the last couple days and the information you and your family need to take care of your mental health and be prepared for that process sort of moving back. With that said, it'd be Alan Sinclair of the Southwest Incident Management Team:

Alan Sinclair
Good afternoon everybody. Alan Sinclair, with Southwest Area Team Number One. So our crews are still working hard. We're in a unified command with the municipal resources from the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office that have been here since day one protecting the communities when this fire started, and the federal assets that we're bringing in have picked up from where they left off and continued to create fire breaks and containment lines around the populated areas. This is a big fire on the on the landscape and the focus right now is on creating the containment lines around populated areas so that we can get people back in when it's appropriate and, as I've explained, we build the lines and then we have to patrol the lines, looking for sources of heat that the firefighters then put out and when they are sure that those containment lines will hold against any foreseen future conditions, including winds. We'll start calling those contained today. You should start seeing containment reported, but I wouldn't expect it to be large numbers because of the size of the fire and the amount of work that will need to be done once we start moving out of the populated areas. So we've got about 500 personnel, somewhere in that range, hand crews, engines, dozers, they're all working together to connect the dots between the work that they're doing and can complete a continuous line that we are using to separate the fire from the populated areas. Thank you.

Brandon Paxton
Hi, Brandon Paxton with the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office providing an update as to the other four fires that are burning within Clackamas County. I'll just run down and give those numbers as we have them. 
The Wilhoit fire estimated at 591 acres, 100 lined, and again to expand on lined that is, uh, there's a line essentially around the fires. You will still see smoke and small amounts of fire as our firefighters continue to mop up on the inside of the fire, but that is what lined means. And then Unger Road estimated at 496 acres, 100 percent lined. Graves Road fire, it's estimated at 44 acres, again 100 lined. The Dowdy road, estimated at 1,452 acres, at 30 percent lined. And there are again, over 250 firefighters working around the clock on two operational periods ensuring that the community is safe and continue to patrol and mop up those hot spots as we move towards full containment.

Nancy Bush
Hi, I am Nancy Bush and I am the Disaster Management director here at Clackamas County. I know you guys have been seeing me a lot and getting used to seeing me and I just want to let you know that I will continue to be here for you through this event. For the last couple of weeks, I've been leading Clackamas County's efforts in cooperation with our partners at the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Clackamas County Fire District Number One, Clackamas County Fire Defense Board, Office of State Fire Marshal and the Oregon Department of Forestry, and other local agencies. I want to take a moment to say thank you to each of those agencies and our and partners for all of your cooperation. You have worked tirelessly days and nights to help fight the wildfires and to keep our communities safe as possible and you are appreciated to the communities that have been impacted directly and indirectly by the wildfires. I want to say thank you for staying in tuned as we move forward and for following alerts as they are released. We rely on you to do your part to make the community as safe as possible. My heart goes out to all of you. This is also my community. I know you're suffering and I'm sorry. We know that there are those of you who have been evacuated who do want to return to your homes and assess the damage and starting to get back to normal, but please only return to the evacuated area if you have been notified to do so by authorities that your evacuation level has been reduced. Be very careful driving home; there may be rocks and fallen trees and limbs and other debris on driveways and other road in the roadways. Drive slowly and cautiously and ideally during the day light hours before inspecting your home check for the smell of gas. Turn off power until you have completed this inspection and if you smell gas, you need to call the gas company immediately. Check for hot embers outside of your home and in the rain gutters and piles of wood compact compost or shavings on the roof under overhangs and all other parts of your property, including any of your outbuildings. Once inside your home check for fire damage in all areas, including your attics and your crawl spaces, the first priority in a wildfire situation is responding to the safety instruction of our fire officials. However it's also important to remember that we are still in a time of COVID, and that has not ended. There is still a need to take safety measures to prevent the spread of disease. For some reminders, don't touch your face and continue washing your hands often. If you cannot use soap and warm water, use hand sanitizer. Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or with a tissue. Clackamas County Public Health is working with known cases to provide isolation or quarantine as needed for those that have been evacuated. If you're in a shelter and know that you're in need of quarantine or isolation, make sure that you let the shelter officials know. If you have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 while you are in the shelter, please let those officials know at the shelter. Wear a mask at all times when you're outside your home or if you may come in contact with people who you do not live with. Practice physical distancing to the greatest extent possible and if you must travel outside your home for any reason, including the evacuation, if you haven't already, please sign up for Public Alerts. That will keep you informed of the changing conditions and situation that we have. Go to the Clackamas County webpage at clackamas.us, and follow the prompts for our Public Alerts signup. Continue to monitor your local news and county website for updates and directions from law—I'm sorry, from fire law enforcement, and our public health officials. You can go to clackamas.us/wildfires for that information. Thank you for your attention.

Christine Hollenbeck
Good afternoon, my name is Christine Hollenbeck. I work for the Clackamas River water providers. First we'd like to thank all of you who have reduced non-essential water use during these challenging times. The risk of fire moving into our urban areas has been greatly reduced, but until that threat is reduced even further or significant rainfall begins, we ask you to continue to conserve the use of your drinking water. I want to talk a little bit about our water systems. Our drinking water continues to be reliable and very safe to drink. Our water treatment plants are fully functional and capable of providing safe clean drinking water. Water demands on the Clackamas water provider systems has increased due to the Riverside fire. The Clackamas water providers are working together to ensure the region has significant water it's important to continue to use water wisely so that it is available for fire related purposes. I also want to talk a little bit about water conservation. If you have not already done so, please go ahead and turn off your outdoor irrigation system and get it ready for the winter. If you need to water any of your plants out in your yard, spot water by hand. Use a broom and not a hose to clean off your driveways patios and sidewalks. Check inside and outside of your home for all leaks and fix them immediately. Even the smallest sleep can make a big difference. Take shorter showers and, of course, always shut off the water while brushing your teeth and washing your hands. For more information about water conservation, go to www.clackamasproviders.org, and you can learn more ways to conserve your drinking water. One last thing from your water providers: we take emergency preparedness very seriously. Learn what you need to store, treat, and access water so that you have 14 days of emergency water by going to www.regionalh2o.org/emergency-preparedness. Thank you.

Jeffrey Anderson
Hi I'm Jeffrey Anderson, Crisis Program Supervisor at Clackamas County Behavioral Health. We know that these are trying times and we want you to know we're here for you and you're not alone. We're here to help you take care of yourself your family and your community. Clackamas County Behavioral Health staff are working to ensure that you receive the resources and connections that you need to help with your mental health. I have some resources to talk about today so that you can find the support that you need. We've formed a resource group called the Go Teams. They're made up of staff who are trained in psychological first aid. Go Teams go out into the community to meet people where they're at and provide them with a listening ear and referrals to services. We do this to make it easy for people to access vital mental health services while reducing the spread of COVID-19. We also operate the Urgent Mental Health Walk-In Center, Clackamas MHC. Were open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only. We're currently offering telehealth services at the MHC, and the phone number is 503-722-6200. If you or someone you know needs to talk, you can also call our 24/7 crisis and support line at 503-655-8585. We are here for you. Please visit our website at clackamas.us for more information on how to receive mental health services and support. We're all in this together. Again, we're here for you now and in the future. 

And now we have a special guest. Jazzy is a golden retriever therapy dog from Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response. The dogs and handlers are highly trained for situations just like this. Hope is an example of a resource that organizations can call on to provide emotional support to firefighters, community groups, and non-profits who are helping face the enormous emotional and mental health needs of our community. We have a link with their information on clackamas.us/mentalhealthconnection. Thank you very much.

Brandon Paxton
Okay that completes the presentations from our speakers. Are there questions from the audience?

Audience member
I have a, question just kind of on the mental health front. I'm wondering if you could give advice to people who are in these situations, they're in the evacuation zones, and they're stressed and are trying to balance how to stay informed, while also taking care of themselves.

Brandon Paxton
Sure, Dr. Jeffrey Anderson?

Jeffrey Anderson
Yes, I would say that what people need to really pay attention to is their anxiety and their worry try to in particular prioritize the things that you really need to get done. Pay attention to media but don't stay on media, especially social media for all day. Try to fill your day with some things that are going to get practical solutions for yourself. Make sure that you're getting enough sleep, exercise, healthy eating that kind of thing. But I think staying informed is one thing. Sticking, you know, gluing yourself to the TV is another. And in disaster situations like this, you know these stories can also affect kids, so if you've got kids try to make sure that they understand what's going on but not pay too much attention to all of the media that they can since we've got a lot out there. Thanks.

Audience member
We have a question from the media over the email from Ivy Green, reporter. Have you heard anything about fire crews being threatened by armed people as they worked or tried to access the Riverside fire? Have you heard about any firefighters being shot at but not struck?

Brandon Paxton
Okay I'm going to introduce Chief Allen Sinclair from the Incident Management Team out of the federal government on the Riverside fire. 

Alan Sinclair
Do I need to repeat the question or no? Okay, so you know our fire crews have interacted with citizens who have chosen not to evacuate. We are working with the members of the public and we're working with local officials and we're working with all of our cooperators to ensure that we're meeting our number one objective and that's maintaining the safety of our firefighters our responders and the public. So that is going well and we do not have any reports of any of those issues at this time. 

Brandon Paxton
Did anything else get called in? Okay, so that concludes our press conference. Again, please access those resources. You may need to provide that self-care, understanding these are stressful times, there are resources out there for you and, you know we all feel this. This is in our backyard. We're in this collectively, so please take care of yourselves, your neighbors and your family.

Contact
Department Staff
Emergency Operations Center - Media
503-650-3525