UPDATE at 7:30 pm on Friday, Sept. 9
A level 3 evacuation order, meaning “go now,” has been issued for the Oakridge, Westfir and High Prairie areas, both within city limits and in the surrounding unincorporated areas, due to extreme growth from the Cedar Creek Fire.
A map of evacuation areas is available here. Residents are advised to travel west, as Highway 58 is closed to the east.
Residents are encouraged to evacuate to the temporary evacuation Point at Lane Community College (4000 E. 30th Avenue, Eugene). The Temporary Evacuation Point is located in Building 16.
Lane Transit District is providing buses to help people who do not have transportation to evacuate. The buses will be staged at:
- Oakridge High School (47997 W 1st St.)
- First Baptist Church (47606 School St.)
In a statement, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said: “There is immediate and imminent danger and you should evacuate immediately. DO NOT delay leaving your property to gather any belongings or make efforts to protect your home. Drive carefully, turn on your headlights, and follow any directions from public safety personnel.”
In some ways the dice already has been rolled on the Cedar Creek Fire, and at this point, all firefighters can do is see where it lands.
The east winds have arrived on a fire that was at 33,100 acres overnight but is growing fast on Friday, bringing new evacuation levels outside Oakridge and closing Oregon Highway 58 over Willamette Pass. The fire is going to grow all day Friday, through the night and into Saturday, but how far it spreads remains the key question.
The fire remains about 11 to 12 miles from Oakridge as of late Friday afternoon. The greater Oakridge-Westfir area is on a level 2 evacuation order meaning “be set to go at any moment.” Highway 58 is closed from Oakridge (milepost 37) to Crescent Lake (milepost 70).
Air quality in Oakridge declined to “hazardous levels” while smoke spreading west brought air quality declines in Eugene and through the Willamette Valley.
Govt. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act Friday afternoon, which allows the Office of State Fire Marshal to mobilize resources to support local fire agencies and protect lives, homes, and critical infrastructure, a news release said.
“The fire’s growth potential in the coming days is troubling, requiring additional resources to battle the fire and support the state’s response,” Brown said. “With forecasted weather conditions this week, it is important for all Oregonians to be prepared.”
The fire is throwing off a massive amount of smoke, with winds expected to peak overnight before slowly tapering off Saturday afternoon and evening. Cooler weather should eventually slow the fire by Sunday and especially Monday into early next week.
Live Oregon wildfire updates:Power outage updates, wildfire activity
“The east winds are pushing the fire west and we’re definitely going to have very, very difficult fire conditions until the end of the day Saturday,” Cedar Creek Fire spokesman Bud Sexton said.
“Deleting actions may be limited,” a Friday morning report said.
By late Friday afternoon, the fire had grown north and west, moving about 2 miles closer to Oakridge. It also crossed Black Creek Road — one of the key containment lines — on the southern end of the fire toward Highway 58, likely accounting for the closure of the highway, which is the main transportation corridor between Eugene and Central Oregon.
Sexton said Thursday that crews didn’t think the topography lined up for extreme runs down river drainages toward populated areas, but he scaled back that language Friday.
“There’s no crystal ball, and with the extreme dryness, it could get into drainages that are aligned,” he said.
There are multiple contingency lines between the fire and Oakridge — where firefighters have sought to remove fuel and stop the fire in its path. But with extreme winds the concern is that the fire sends out embers that bypass the lines, Sexton said.
“With humidity levels so extremely low (dry), the fuels are behaving differently than they would normally,” he said. “The fire can send out embers and spot well ahead of the body of the fire, and that makes it challenging.”
He said a big part of operations Friday was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst and making sure there was frequent communication so that if needed, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office could make calls on evacuating Oakridge.
More:Oregon to see extreme wildfire danger similar to 2020 Labor Day blowup
Other notes from Friday are that the fire has curled around Waldo Lake and the fire perimeter has surrounded North Waldo Campground and is very close to Islet Campground on the east side of Waldo Lake.
Sexton said crews had been busy wrapping structures at the campground and as of Friday morning they were intact.
On the east side, the blaze is moving increasingly close to Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway, Crane Prairie Reservoir and Little Cultus Lake. Those areas are on a level 3 evacuation and are closed. There is a very large closure area around the fire at this point that strictly limits recreation.
On Forest Service Road 2421 firefighters will be watching for any spot fires and holding the fire at the road. Crews will be engaging the spot fires north of the Winchester Trail trying to extinguish them if safe to do so. Firefighters are also coordinating with the Middle Fork Ranger District and Lane County Oregon State Fire Marshal representative in order to provide initial attack support to any new fire starts that might occur.
There are expanded closures on both sides of Waldo Lake for miles in each direction. On the east side of the lake, in Deschutes National Forest, toward the Cascade Lakes Highway, a closure map can be found here. On the west side of the fire, toward Oakridge, in Willamette National Forest, a closure map can be found here.
Extended power shut offs:EWEB, Lane Electric to shut off power for thousands in Lane Co. ahead of high winds
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter in Oregon for 15 years and is host of the Explore Oregon Podcast. He can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.