With two Lane County fires raging, Kotek declares emergency conflagration

The sheriff’s office has issued immediate evacuation order for the fires, both in the Willamette National Forest 

By: - August 14, 2023 2:58 pm

Hundreds of firefighters are battling two quickly spreading fires in the Willamette National Forest. (Oregon Department of Forestry/Flickr)

Gov. Tina Kotek declared an emergency conflagration Monday for a fire burning amid severe weather conditions in the Willamette National Forest.

The declaration allows the Oregon State Fire Marshal to bring in firefighters and equipment to fight the Lookout Fire, one of three blazes in Lane County and one of two, along with the Bedrock Fire, with immediate evacuation orders in place. 

More information

In response to the fires, the U.S. Forest Service has closed off areas in the vicinity. For more details, check out this map. It is also posting information on its Willamette National Forest Facebook page.

For more fire information, go to inciweb.org, which tracks large fires across the country. Click here for the status of Oregon fires.

Sign up for local emergency alerts, including evacuation notices, through oralert.gov.

The Lookout Fire spread rapidly over the weekend to 1,200 acres in the Willamette National Forest north of the community of McKenzie Bridge, with wind gusts up to 25 miles an hour blowing embers 1 mile. Fire officials who monitor large blazes across the country said the fire was started by lightning. It does not appear to be at all contained.

“The Lookout Fire has been growing rapidly due to the dry, windy conditions in Lane County,” Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said in a statement Monday. “The next few days are very concerning with continued red flag conditions.”

About 350 firefighters and other personnel are battling the blaze. The Lane County Sheriff’s Office has issued a Level 3 or “go now” evacuation orders in place for residents on:

  • Taylor Road
  • North Bank Road
  • All areas north of Highway 126 between Blue River Reservoir Road and Drury Lane
  • Mona Campground
  • Lookout Campground
  • HJ Andrews Experimental Forest headquarter

Sgt. Tom Speldrich, spokesman of the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, told the Capital Chronicle that about 90 residences were affected by the order. Most were respecting it, he said.

“Most people are erring on the side of caution,” Speldrich said.

The sheriff’s office issued a Level 1, or be ready alert for residents living:

  • South of Highway 126 from Blue River Reservoir Road east to Foley Ridge Road
  • McKenzie River Drive

The Bedrock Fire, which started July 22 near the Bedrock Campground in the Willamette National Forest, is the biggest of the three fires: It covers more than 19,000 acres and is 20% contained. The cause is under investigation.

On Monday, the fire marshal’s office announced it had mobilized four task forces from Multnomah, Douglas, Polk and Washington counties to fight the Bedrock Fire. It is also in contact with crews in California.

“Over the past 72 hours, our agency has been working diligently to be ready for this critical weather event and increased fire danger,” the fire marshal said in a release. 

Ruiz Temple said this week will be critical, with a heat wave scorching the state.

“The next few days are going to be challenging with extreme heat, lightning and red flag conditions in the forecast,” Ruiz-Temple said. “The Bedrock Fire continues to move out of the wilderness and is threatening nearby communities. Our agency will be there to support our local fire service partners.” 

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office also has issued Level 3 evacuation orders for about 50 households on:

  • Peninsula Road east of Timber Creek
  • Big Fall Creek Road east of the intersection with Peninsula Road

And there is a Level 2, or be ready to flee, order in effect for:

  • Big Fall Creek Road east of Winberry Creek Road to Peninsula Road
  • Peninsula Road along the south of Fall Creek Reservoir to Timber Creek
  • Winberry Creek Road east of milepost 4.0

The Salmon Fire east of Oakridge is the third fire in the area. Starting Aug. 6, It is the smallest – 135 acres – and is 80% contained. As a result, officials have shifted resources from the Salmon Fire to the Bedrock Fire. Nevertheless, there is a Level 1 evacuation order in effect for all residents who live on:

  • High Prairie Road and associated side streets
  • McFarland Road and associated side streets
  • Westoak Road and associated side streets
  • Salmon Creek Road and associated side streets
  • Oakridge north of Roberts Road and associated side streets

The Salmon Fire is also under investigation.

State fire officials urged the public to be cautious when driving in the vicinity of the fires.




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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years.