Wildfire Recovery Update - January 7, 2022
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General Operation Updates
The Debris Management Task Force wishes Oregon a Happy New Year as we look forward to a year of hope, resilience and action. We thank wildfire survivors and Oregonians for their continued inspiration as we navigate the arduous, multi-year wildfire recovery journey together. The spirit shared in 2021 was unmatched and we were honored to have played a small, but critical, part in helping communities recover and rebuild.
With the arrival of the New Year, the majority of Task Force-led debris and hazard tree removal is complete as Oregon communities look ahead to what’s possible in 2022. While most debris removal operations are complete (99.6%), diligent steps continue on remaining select properties to ensure full environmental and safety compliance before determining a home site is ready for rebuilding. On-scene and call center staff continue to coordinate with these select properties and look forward to wrapping up soon, weather and logistics permitting. With more than 90,000 hazard trees cut or removed (91% of the estimated total), remaining hazard tree work will continue into 2022 due to winter weather.
Steps to close out the cleanup operation are underway. This includes ongoing coordination related to the FEMA federal reimbursement process, January 2022 After Action Reviews, operational budget management and monitoring, and staff transitions.
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 nearly 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:
While weather will impact the pace of final completion steps, final completion letters continue to be sent to property owners and are captured as stars on the interactive map. Continue to track our progress data page (scroll down the webpage) for the latest updates and information.
Beachie Creek/Lionshead Fire areas (Santiam River corridor, primarily in Marion and Linn counties, Highway 22 and adjacent area): Ash and debris removal is complete on all properties, pending final close-out activities on select properties and property owner notifications. Hazard tree removal is 90% complete.
Hazard tree work is nearly complete, with helicopter work underway at mileposts 39-42. Winter weather and snow has paused ditch cleaning and guard rail work in the area. In partnership with county partners, hazard tree work on county roads, rights of way and parks will continue into winter months.
Echo Mountain Fire area (Lincoln County, Lincoln City area, Highway 18 and adjacent area):
Pending final safety inspections and hazard tree work on a single property, Task Force operations in the Echo Mountain Fire area are complete; hazard tree removal on private property is 95% complete.
Holiday Farm Fire area (Lane County, McKenzie River area, Highway 126): Ash and debris removal is complete on all properties pending final close-out activities on 10 remaining properties; hazard tree removal is 88% complete.
Hazard tree removal work continues to address trees that did not survive the first year after the initial hazard assessment and will continue into 2022. Hazard tree removal work on county-maintained roads continues into 2022.
Riverside Fire area (Estacada area, Clackamas County, Highways 224 and 211): Private property ash and debris removal work is complete; hazard tree removal is 96% complete.
Hazard tree cutting is complete with final tree cleanup steps ongoing due to weather impacts. With Task Force operations mostly complete, ongoing closure coordination of OR-224 will be managed by ODOT Region 1. In partnership with Clackamas County, marking and removal of hazard trees along county-maintained roads and easements will continue into the winter and spring.
Almeda Drive Fire area (Medford/Talent/Phoenix, Jackson County, Highway 99 and Interstate-5): Ash and debris removal complete, all properties that signed up for the program are complete; hazard tree removal is 91% complete.
Work on five remaining properties entering the program through county nuisance ordinances are expected to be complete in the coming weeks, as are property hazard trees.
Archie Creek Fire area (Douglas County, Highway 138): Ash and debris removal complete; hazard tree removal 84% complete.
Hazard tree cutting continues and will likely continue through the winter, though operations are limited by winter weather and snow. Hauling, decking and chipping operations continues in the Glide industrial area.
South Obenchain Fire area (Jackson County, northeast of Eagle Point, Highways 62 and 140): Ash and debris removal complete, pending final close-out activities; hazard tree removal 75% complete on private properties.
Winter weather and snow has momentarily paused operations. Crews have mobilized from the Almeda Fire area to complete close-out activities. Task Force management has coordinated with Jackson County to remove hazard trees along county-maintained roads in the area.
Thielsen Fire area (eastern Douglas County, Highway 138): Ash and debris removal N/A; hazard tree removal complete.
242 Fire area (Klamath County, Highways 62 and 97):
Ash and debris removal complete with the exception of one property currently paused due to snow; hazard tree removal complete.
For all intents and purposes, the 242 Fire area is mostly complete.
Topics of the Week
Our thoughts and support go out to the Denver-area, Colorado communities so tragically devastated by wildfires during the New Year holiday. These types of wind-fueled wildfires during winter months are unprecedented and traumatically echo for all Oregonians still recovering from 2020.
Local and regional organizations continue to replant and restore wildfire-impacted areas throughout the state. Watch how the Clackamas River Basin Council is replanting in burned riparian areas.
As the Blue River area in Lane County rises from the ashes and navigates what the future looks like for their community, local neighbors are wondering “who’s coming back?” Listen or read this in-depth about next steps for the McKenzie River Valley.
Last month, state and federal leaders held a virtual roundtable to discuss the effects of climate change and wildfire resiliency in Oregon. Following this event, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will steer millions towards Oregon’s forest health and wildfire prevention efforts.
The Thompsons lost everything in the Riverside Fire, but the holiday season and New Year marked a fresh start as they moved into their new home.
In partnership with Dark Horse Comics, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management released a comic book last month exploring how to prevent and prepare for Northwest wildfires. Read more about it here.
The Oregon Secretary of State’s Audits Division was recently named first in the nation for state and local reports. We very much appreciate the opportunity to work with the Secretary of State’s Office as they conducted and published their review of our work to keep Oregon safe and usher wildfire survivors back into homes.
Air Quality Monitoring Report
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 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. As ash and debris removal nears completion and winter weather reduces air quality monitoring, there are no results to report this month.
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 Elizabeth.MCINTIRE@odot.oregon.gov.
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.