UPDATED: Vitae Springs fire contained, mop up in progress, evacuations remain in place

UPDATE 2 p.m. Saturday – That shelter opened at Judson Middle School? Home overnight to 13 people and an assortment of animals, including a lizard.

According to Marion County Emergency Management, 12 dogs, seven cats, 10 rabbits, and one lizard were helped at the school. At the fairgrounds, emergency shelter was provided to one horse, two ducks, two sheep, two alpacas and nine chickens.

UPDATE 11:15 a.m. Saturday – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said the Vitae Springs fire is completely contained but hot spots continue to burn.

“Air assets are still assigned to this incident and are planned to assist with suppression and containment efforts throughout the day. Ground crews will be coordinating with air assets to form a retardant line around the perimeter of the fire,” the statement said.

“As of this morning the fire is concentrated in a heavily wooded area which is challenging to access due to the steep terrain. The area remains under a red flag warning with potential for high winds in the forecast through late Saturday evening,” the statement.

Evacuations and alerts for potential evacuation remain in place for now, the statement said.

UPDATE 9:30 a.m Saturday – Salem city officials released an initial list of local and state agencies that responded to the Vitae Springs Road fire. The complete list is below.

UPDATE 7:15 am. Saturday – The Vitae Springs Road fire has been checked as crews continue active firefighting operations and watching for spot fires.

Greg Walsh, Salem emergency preparedness manager, said Saturday morning:

• Evacuees will have to remain out of their homes until at least Sunday morning. A decision about when to allow people back into the area will be made later in the day.

• No homes or other structures have been reported damaged and there have been no reported injuries.

• Fire crews will remain on the ground through Sunday morning.

• The command post for the fire teams, which included crews from 18 agencies, continues to operate at Crossler Middle School.

Who helped?

Here are agencies that responded to the Vitae Springs fire in some fashion, according to Salem city officials:

Willamette Valley Communications Center

Salem Fire Department

Salem Police Department

Salem Public Works Department

Independence Police Department

Dallas Fire

Polk County Fire District

Polk County Sheriff

Marion County Public Works Department

Marion County Public Health Department

Marion County Fire District 1

Marion County Sheriff

Yamhill Fire

Jefferson Fire

Keizer Fire

Turner Fire

Falck Ambulance

Dallas Police

Marion County Search and Rescue

Oregon State Fair

American Red Cross

Salem-Keizer School District

Oregon State Fire Marshal

Oregon State Veterinarian

Original story:

Evacuations affecting an estimated 350 people remained in place Saturday morning as fire crews continued working on the Vitae Springs fire that broke out Friday afternoon.

About 250 structures are in the fire area, authorities reported, but there were no official reports yet of damage.

On Friday night, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office placed an estimated 1,500 people under Level 2 evacuation notice, meaning they were to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. There are about 1,000 structures in the secondary zone, according to state mapping. The map is available online here.

The American Red Cross also announced it was opening an emergency shelter at Judson Middle School, 4512 Jones Rd. S.E.

“Individuals and families affected by the wildfire and in need of shelter assistance are encouraged to simply show up at the shelter for help,” the Red Cross said in a statement.

The school parking lot had been used as a gathering place for evacuees and to help those moving livestock out of the fire area.

The Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center also opened to those needing a place to take livestock, with officials directing evacuees to enter through the Silverton Road entrance.

The National Weather Service maintains a red flag warning for much of western Oregon into Saturday night, but weather data showed that winds in Salem that had been gusting to 26 mph dropped under 10 mph by 9 p.m.

Level 2 evacuation areas:

Marion County:

  • River Road S at Sawmill Rd
  • Sawmill Rd S
  • South side of Ballyntyne Rd S
  • Stonehill Ave S
  • Jory Hill Rd S west of Elmhurst Ave S
  • Elmhurst Ave S to Nehalem St S
  • Cole Rd S west of Bates Rd S
  • West side of Bates Rd S to Bunker Hill Rd S including the Chinook Estates neighborhood
  • Bunker Hill Rd S to Riverside Dr S
  • Riverside Dr S from River Rd S to Sidney Rd S
  • West side of Sidney Rd S to Buena Vista Rd S

Polk County:

  • East of Corvallis Rd from the Independence Bridge to Davidson Rd
  • North of Davidson Rd and Wigrich Rd east to the Willamette River

This story will be updated as officials provide updated information Saturday morning. Salem Reporter is making this coverage available at no charge as a community service.

To share information or photos, please email Editor Les Zaitz at [email protected].

Volunteers pull into Judson Middle School on Friday, Sept. 9, to stage and be ready help evacuate livestock from the Vitae Springs fire. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)
Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Barber confers with volunteers from Marion County Search and Rescue at the Judson Middle School evacuation site on Friday, Sept. 9. The school was opened as a Red Cross shelter. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)
A volunteer with Marion County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue talks with evacuees arriving at Judson Middle School on Friday, Sept. 9. The school was used as a gathering place for those fleeing the Vitae Springs fire and opened as a Red Cross shelter. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)
The Vitae Springs fire burns in the wooded and brushy area of south Salem as seen from Independence on Sept. 9. (Jose Gibson photo)
Salem police control traffic on South Skyline Road as residents evacuate in the face of the Vitae Springs Road fire on Sept. 9. The photo was taken by one evacuee, Ron Lee, as his family left their home. (Ron Lee photo)
The Vitae Springs fire burns in the wooded and brushy area of south Salem as seen from Wigrich Road southeast of the fire on Sept. 9. (Winnie Evans photo)


BREAKING: Brush fire forcing evacuations in south Salem as crews surround the blaze

Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.