'Major progress' on Graham Fire; Three Rivers evacuation lifted

Two homes, five outbuildings were lost to blaze

CULVER, Ore. - (Update:Level 3 evacuation order at Three Rivers lowered to Level 2 notice)

"Major progress" on the nearly 2,100-acre Graham Fire that destroyed two homes and five outbuildings at a community near Lake Billy Chinook means a Level 3 evacuation order is being lifted and residents of the Three Rivers subdivision can return home, Jefferson Undersheriff Marc Heckathorn said late Saturday afternoon.

Here's his full update, issuesd around 4:20 p.m.

"Major progress has been made today on the Graham Fire near the 3 Rivers Subdivision. After careful consideration and coordinating with fire officials Sheriff Adkins is ordering the following to happen at 6PM today (Saturday):

"The Three Rivers subdivision is reducing its evacuation notice for all residents from level 3 (Go) to level 2 (Be Ready). Sheriff (Jim) Adkins has ordered all road closures removed and normal access restored to residents. 

"The sheriff asks those not needing to be in the area to please stay clear as there is still firefighting efforts occurring in the area and will be for at least the next few days. A Level 2 (Be Set) order means things could change, and people who choose to return home can do so but should be prepared to leave if conditions change. 

"With the road closures eliminated access to both Perry South and Monte Campgrounds will again be open to the public.

"Tomorrow (Sunday), after shift briefing, we will decide on whether further actions are necessary.

"Also Sunday at the Chinook Store at 6 p.m., fire commanders from the Oregon Department of Forestry will host a community meeting regarding the fire. Please come and get answers to any questions you may have at this meeting.

"No other areas are under any evacuation order at this time," Heckathorn concluded.

Two homes and five outbuildings were lost to the flames of the fast-moving Graham Fire shortly after it broke out Thursday, officials said Saturday, but firefighters saved many others and have made considerable progress, reaching 50 percent containment as of Saturday.

Here's information from a Saturday 10 a.m. update:

The Oregon Department of Forestry Type 1 Team and Oregon State Fire Marshall Green Team took unified command of the fire on Friday at  6 p.m.. Fire crews have made good progress battling the Graham Fire. The fire is estimated at approximately 2,055 acres and is burning in brush, timber and grass south of the Metolius River arm of Lake Billy Chinook near Culver.

Fire crews completed a burnout operation Friday and were beginning mop-up operations Saturday. 

Saturday’s firefighting resources included: seven hand crews, 26 engines, two bulldozers, four water tenders, approximately 375 personnel and containment is estimated at 50 percent.. Aircraft resources assigned to this fire are available to all fires in the area as needed.

Crews have set up fire camp at the Sisters Rodeo Grounds. Please use caution on Highway 20 near the rodeo grounds due to the additional fire traffic in the area.

The fire burned (destroyed) two residential structures and five outbuildings, but many more were saved by local firefighting resources. Further information regarding structure losses is not available at this time.

Three structural protection task forces of firefighters from Clackamas, Marion, Washington, Lane and Multnomah counties have been mobilized under the Conflagration Act and will provide 24-hour structure protection threatened by the fire.

The fire is burning on private lands protected by Oregon Department of Forestry and Lake Chinook Fire and Rescue, as well as Bureau of Land Management ownership.

 The cause of the fire is attributed to the lightning storm that passed through the area last Wednesday.

Updated information for the Graham Fire is available on InciWeb:

Earlier Saturday, Heckathorn shared concerns about numerous residents who had not heeded Level 3 evacuation orders and their impacts on firefighting efforts.

Heckathorn said he attended the Graham fire briefing this morning and obtained the following information:

"The Graham Fire is burning both inside and outside the 3 Rivers Subdivision. Fire activity this (Saturday) morning is low at the moment and crews will be "hitting it hard" today trying to get any hot spots extinguished in hopes to prevent any further flare up.

"Fire containment lines have all held overnight. Fire commanders reminded all the firefighters this fire started from a small spark and turned into a 2,000-acre fire very quickly. The commander stressed to everyone to take their time and leave this place “better than they found it.” 

"During the safety briefing, fire commanders commented on the high numbers of persons who refused to evacuate the area and are riding ATVs and pulling trailers with boats down narrow roads that fire tenders are also traveling on. The commanders stressed to their crews to be aware of the dangers on the roads inside Three Rivers. 

"The Sheriff's Office asks those who did not evacuate to please stay on your property and off the roads. The area has not been deemed safe for people to recreate in and is causing unnecessary concerns fire fighters trying to help our community.

"All road closures will remain in effect all day today. Three Rivers will remain in a Level 3 evacuation level (get out and don’t return). Sheriff's deputies will remain in the area on extra patrol supporting our firefighters and our local community."

Approved Oregon Evacuation Levels

LEVEL 1: A Level 1 Evacuation means “BE READY” for potential evacuation. Residents should be aware of the danger that exists in their area, monitor emergency services websites and local media outlets for information. This is the time for preparation and precautionary movement of persons with special needs, mobile property and (under certain circumstances) pets and livestock. If conditions worsen, emergency services personnel may contact you via an emergency notification system.

LEVEL 2: A Level 2 Evacuation means “BE SET” to evacuate. YOU MUST PREPARE TO LEAVE AT A MOMENTS NOTICE This level indicates there is significant danger to your area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family/friends outside of the affected area, or if choosing to remain, to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Residents MAY have time to gather necessary items, but doing so is at their own risk. THIS MAY BE THE ONLY NOTICE THAT YOU RECEIVE Emergency services cannot guarantee that they will be able to notify you if conditions rapidly deteriorate. Area media services will be asked to broadcast periodic updates.

LEVEL 3: A Level 3 Evacuation means “GO” Evacuate NOW LEAVE IMMEDIATELY! Danger to your area is current or imminent, and you should evacuate immediately. If you choose to ignore this advisement, you must understand that emergency services may not be available to assist you further. DO NOT delay leaving to gather any belongings or make efforts to protect your home. THIS WILL BE THE LAST NOTICE THAT YOU RECEIVE Entry to evacuated areas may be denied until conditions are safe. Area radio and TV stations have been asked to broadcast periodic updates.

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