A view looking down over Silverton on Thursday, September 10. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Update, 11:15 a.m.
The Portland office of the FBI on Friday addressed the persistence rumors and claims on social media that Oregon wildfires are the result of a coordinated arson ring:
FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon. With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue. Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control. Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.
Update, 10:27 a.m.
Fire officials said Friday improving weather conditions and reduced wind have allowed firefighters to begin attacking the Beachie Creek Fire. Work until today has been focused on rescuing people.
“Starting today, we think we’ve turned the corner,” said Commander Les Hallman, with the Oregon State Fire Marshal, in a 10 a.m. briefing for local stakeholders.
The fire is 182,000 acres as of a 7 a.m. Friday report, growing about 23,000 acres since yesterday. Beachie Creek grew north toward the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County, but the two have not merged as fire officials feared would happen Thursday.
Fire crews are working along the west side of the fire today, working to contain the blaze, commanders reported at the briefing.
The evacuation status in Marion County remains unchanged from Thursday.
Current Level 2 evacuations, meaning residents should be ready to go at a moment’s notice, are in effect for Stayton, Sublimity, Aumsville, Silverton, Mt. Angel, Cascade south of Abiqua Road north of Silverton, and all areas south of Abiqua Road.
Current level 3 evacuations, meaning residents should have evacuated the area, are in Lyons, Mehama, Detroit, Mill City, Gates, North Fork Area, Breitenbush, Scotts Mills, Idahna and both sides of 214 north of Silver Falls State Park to Drakes Crossing. This includes Grade Road, Ridgecreek and Powers Creek Loop.
Marion County’s latest evacuation map is here.
Salem’s air quality is still hazardous, with the U.S. Air Quality Index at 456 as of 7 a.m. Friday. An air quality alert remains in effect through noon Monday. People should stay indoors as much as possible and avoid physical exertion.
The National Weather Service is forecasting light and variable wind Friday with calm winds coming from the west southwest by night. Temperature: a high of 77 on Friday and low around 52 tonight. Light winds and highs in the mid-70s will continue through the weekend, with rain likely Monday night.
Highway 22 remains closed seven miles west of Mehama, and Highway 226 is closed three miles west of Lyons. Authorities are tightening access to the Santiam Canyon said the Oregon National Guard will be manning checkpoints. Fire officials say the canyon remains a hazardous place because of the continuing fire, falling trees and inaccessible roads.
Visit Tripcheck.com for current information on road closures.
Marion County residents can contact the county’s non-emergency dispatch to report someone missing in the evacuations. Call 503-588-5032 to make a report.
SUPPLIES FOR EVACUEES, DONATIONS STILL ACCEPTED
United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley will open a location near the fairgrounds starting at noon Friday for evacuees to obtain clothing and other necessities. The address is 1705 Silverton Rd., and the location will be open until at least 5 p.m.
Local service organizations will have information available for evacuees about getting other help they may need.
United Way is still accepting donations for evacuees at the Silverton Road address, and the United Way office at 455 Bliler Ave. N.E. in Salem. Check the United Way Facebook page for an updated list of current needs.
Marion County has more information about other ways to donate and help evacuees.
DONATED RVS NEEDED
Retriever Towing has donated several RVs to displaced families and is seeking donations of RVs, motorhomes, campers and 5th wheels to help other families. They are partnering with United Way to connect with families in need.
Retriever can come collect your vehicle and handle all the paperwork. Call 503-222-4763 to arrange a donation.
SALEM OPEN-AIR DINING POSTPONED
The City of Salem has canceled street closures Saturday and Sunday on State Street which would have allowed restaurants to put additional tables outside. The program will resume when air quality improves, the city said in a news release.
SATURDAY FARMER’S MARKET CANCELED
The Salem Saturday Market is canceled Saturday due to poor air quality. Check the market’s Facebook page for the latest information.
LOOTING ARRESTS, NO EVIDENCE OF ARSON LOCALLY
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office arrested two men Thursday morning in the Sublimity area on suspicion of looting after fire crews and residents reported a suspicious van in the Detroit area.
The Sheriff’s Office said they have not received any reports of arson locally. As of Friday morning, Oregon State Police Capt. Tim Fox said state police have made no arson arrests anywhere in the area.
RETURNING TO FIRE ZONE, BOATS
Marion County officials are working on a plan to allow residents to return to their homes inside the fire zone, and for people with boats on Detroit Lake to retrieve them. More information will be shared once a plan is developed and conditions are safe.
SALEM FIREFIGHTERS DEPLOYED
The Salem Fire Department has sent 18 firefighters to work on the Beachie Creek Fire after a request from the state. Salem is not in danger from the current fires, and there are no evacuation orders in place for the city, the Salem Fire Department said.
SHOWER AND AIR SHELTER VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
The ARCHES Project needs volunteers Friday and overnight to help with an air quality shelter at First Presbyterian Church, 770 Chemeketa St. N.E., for homeless and unsheltered people affected by the hazardous air in Salem.
Volunteers are needed in three shifts starting at 6 p.m. Friday and ending at 8 a.m. Saturday. More information and sign-ups are available here. Volunteers must be 18 or older.
ARCHES is also bringing its mobile shower trailer to the Oregon State Fairgrounds so people displaced by the wildfires can shower. People with previous experience volunteering with the shower trailer can sign up for shifts here.
NEED HELP? If you or your organization needs volunteers to help with local wildfire relief efforts, please contact Salem Reporter at [email protected] so we can provide updated information.
SUPPORT ESSENTIAL REPORTING FOR SALEM – A subscription starts at $5 a month for around-the-clock access to stories and email alerts sent directly to you. Your support matters. Go HERE.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.