Weekly Update - September 10, 2021
We’re all in this together. Please help share this information with your networks and communities. Please note that the next update will be published on September 24 and then every other week after that.
General Operation Updates
DEADLINE APPROACHING: As Oregon commemorates the one-year mark since the September 2020 wildfires, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Debris Management Task Force (Task Force) are recognizing a significant milestone with most home sites now cleared and many currently rebuilding. As work moves closer to completion, the Task Force has worked with local communities to set September 15 as the final deadline for participating in the state cleanup program. This deadline allows crews to assist property owners wishing to participate - or revisiting their decision to participate - in the program before contract crews finish work in a specific area. Anyone who would like to opt in or has questions about their individual situation can contact our hotline at 503-934-1700 and track our interactive status page.
The statewide wildfire recovery task force structure was designed to create and carve out very specific roles for different groups, stakeholders and agencies. For example, the Housing Task Force is a collaboration between Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Housing and Community Services, and others working to get wildfire survivors back in homes. Each agency plays a specific role in that process. The Task Force’s unique role was created and assigned by the Oregon Governor’s Office and the Wildfire Economic Recovery Council (read their summary report) to specifically focus on both debris removal and subsequently the evaluation and removal of hazard trees along state highways.
This specific role has been performed in tandem with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish Wildlife, Oregon Department of Forestry and many other state and federal partners. The role of the Natural and Cultural Resources Recovery Task Force involves coordinating this work from a natural resources perspective to work with public land managers, land owners and other local nonprofits and restoration groups - most often the landowners in these areas - to launch replanting and restoration efforts, which are currently underway in many areas.
The McKenzie River Watershed Council is a great example of how our localized and coordinated approach is working in communities. Our on-the-ground operation teams, crews and contractors have formed strong relationships with many of these groups - as well as state and federal partners - to ensure that they have what they need to plan their restoration work. While replanting was not a role or responsibility assigned to the Task Force, we continue to support, be in contact and coordinate closely with those tasked with carrying the replanting and restoration efforts forward.
By the Numbers
Step 2 began in December 2020 and will progress through multiple impacted areas simultaneously. We estimate it will take up to 18 months to complete all properties. In total, this work will require marking and cutting more than 100,000 hazard trees and removing ash and debris from more than 3,000 participating lots, including individual home and commercial property sites.
Below is a summary of the work that has been completed thus far:
Current “By the Numbers” updates are available on the debris and tree removal data dashboard. The interactive status map on the same page provides a visual of all work underway.
Beachie Creek/Lionshead Fire areas Santiam River corridor, primarily in Marion and Linn counties, Highway 22 and adjacent area Debris removal 51% complete; hazard tree removal 61% complete
Hazard tree cutting and removal work is underway at mileposts 22, 48 and 51 and on private properties in the area, including at Taylor Park Road. With contractor transitions, work continues to ramp up with more crews being assigned to work orders.
Echo Mountain Fire area Lincoln County, Lincoln City area, Highway 18 and adjacent area Debris removal 90% complete; hazard tree removal 61% complete
(remainder of trees are primarily on property sites participating in the state program)
Work is mostly complete in the area. Any remaining hazard trees in the fire area are on these pending home sites awaiting removal and this is scheduled to be completed in the coming month.
Holiday Farm Fire area Lane County, McKenzie River area, Highway 126 Debris removal 81% complete; hazard tree removal 75% complete
Hazard tree assessment and removal work is underway on private properties where crews are removing debris, and hazard tree crane work is underway at Highway 126 milepost 32. Crews have begun assessing and removing hazard trees on Good Pasture Road at the request of our Lane County partners. Crews continue to reassess hazard trees being monitored over time.
Riverside Fire area Estacada area, Clackamas County, Highways 224 and 211 Debris removal complete awaiting final close-out steps; hazard tree removal 66% complete
Hazard tree evaluation and cutting work is underway at mileposts 27, 37, 41, 48 and 51. Due to falling rocks, trees launching from steep slopes, and numerous other safety hazards, Highway 224 remains closed. Crews continue to work quickly in efforts to reopen the highway sometime in the fall and a new update will be provided shortly.
Almeda Drive Fire area Medford/Talent/Phoenix, Jackson County, Highway 99 and Interstate 5
Debris removal complete, pending final closeout activities
Archie Creek Fire area Douglas County, Highway 138 Debris removal complete, pending final closeout activities; hazard tree removal 37% complete
Hazard tree work is underway at mileposts 22-24. Debris removal is complete on all current participating properties pending final close-out activities. Task Force staff continue to coordinate with land management partners on wildfire restrictions and regulations.
South Obenchain Fire area Jackson County, northeast of Eagle Point, Highways 62 and 140 Debris removal complete, pending final closeout activities
Thielsen Fire area Eastern Douglas County, Highway 138 Debris removal N/A; hazard tree removal is complete, pending final closeout activities
242 Fire area Klamath County, Highways 62 and 97 Debris removal 30% complete on the total 17 properties; hazard tree removal 42% complete
A temporary pause continues due to fire conditions while hazard tree work continues at Collier Memorial State Park. Task Force staff continue to coordinate with land management partners on wildfire restrictions and regulations and opportunities to resume work.
Topics of the Week
In remembrance of the September 2020 fires, the Oregonian interviewed wildfire survivors in the McKenzie River Valley. Read their stories of hope and resilience.
The staff of the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center returned to the area one year after the 2020 wildfires devastated their property. Read their takeaways and thoughts about the future. We are currently working with them to help find solutions to their debris cleanup challenges while lack of road access presents numerous barriers.
On September 8, 2020, the Rogue Valley was devastated by the Almeda Fire that swept through towns fueled by powerful winds. Watch this video from the Ashland Tidings about what happened that day and how community members are rebuilding and looking to the future.
Community leaders and local organizations collaborated to develop an interactive self-guided walk to commemorate a year since the Almeda Fire raced through the Rogue Valley. Visit the website to participate in a virtual walk including guided meditations, artistic expressions, hopeful visions and community reflections to mark the one-year anniversary of the Almeda Fire.
County officials in fire-impacted communities will begin sending safety risk, or “nuisance,” letters to some property owners in the coming weeks. These letters will address both debris and hazard trees along roadways or on properties that require removal. Should you as a property owner receive one of these letters before the September 15 deadline, or are already participating in our state cleanup program, call our hotline at 503-934-1700 to see if we can help. Each county will have different code requirements, however, and we encourage you to call county officials first to become familiar with their local nuisance ordinances.
Air Quality Monitoring Report | 8/30 - 9/5
Local environmental health is one of our top priorities. In addition to conducting required asbestos testing in an efficient manner for all debris removal home sites, state contractors are visually monitoring and controlling dust to protect air quality during ash and debris cleanup work. If dust issues occur, our crews will stop work and fix the issue before resuming to protect public health. You can view the latest soil sampling FAQs on our news page. Questions about dust from private contractors are not part of state cleanup work and can be directed to local city and county public health departments.
Each week, contractors report their visual monitoring results, and the testing labs report their sample test results for active work areas. Recent results include:
Beachie Creek Fire
Number of properties that had air sampling: 5
Number of air samples collected: 11
Results above action level: 0
Visual monitoring: no recorded dust levels that exceeded action levels
The “action level” is the threshold for action at a site, or from a lab test result. Learn more about action levels, how we control dust and test air samples in our air quality monitoring FAQ.
For specific air quality monitoring data, email Liz McIntire with the Task Force at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions about hazard tree removal in your community, our hotline can help point you in the right direction. Please access information from your local county government first, and then call our hotline at 503-934-1700 if you need more information.