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The Impact of South Willamette Solutions During the Cedar Creek Fire East Wind Event

Photo credit: Alex Hickey, Washington TF2

On the weekend of September 9-10, the Pacific Northwest experienced a major East wind event. Winds originating in the East and pushing Westward saw sustained ridge-top speeds between 25-35 mph, and gusts of up to 50 mph. These wind patterns, combined with extremely low relative humidity (RH) and high temperatures, created multiple days of volatile fire activity. The communities of Oakridge, Westfir, and the wider Oakridge area were heavily impacted by this event.

The Cedar Creek Fire, ignited by lightning on August 1, 2022, originated 15 miles from the city of Oakridge. As of Thursday, September 8, 2022, the fire had burned to 31,486 acres and was at 18% containment. Over the course of Friday and Saturday, the fire had burned to 85,926 acres— a significant growth of 54,440 acres— and traveled nine miles east. The extreme distance that the fire could travel in a short period of time given the extreme wind and weather conditions was cause for issue of evacuation orders. We worked closely with Lane County and the fire management teams to plan and implement the Level 3 evacuation.

The City of Oakridge was put on Level 3 Evacuation on Friday, September 9, at 7:00 pm. On the following day, Oakridge saw extremely hazardous Air Quality up to 700 parts per million of PM2.5.

Currently at the time of publish, Oakridge, Westfir, and the wider area remain on evacuation notice of Level 1 “Be Ready.” The Cedar Creek Fire is not over, and has burned 93,427 acres, and is currently at 0% containment.

As these events were unfolding, the South Willamette Solutions team that works for Oakridge Air and Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative stepped up and were working hard to provide valuable resources for the community during this emergency situation. 

The following are a list of items that the team at South Willamette Solutions accomplished for the community during this time.

  • Participated in planning meetings and execution meetings with the Incident Management Teams and other key players leading up to and during the event.

  • Set up cleaner air spaces equipped with HEPA air filtration at the Oakridge Public Library and 1st Baptist Church.

  • Had the Oakridge High School multipurpose room ready to go as a backup cleaner airspace in case of high capacity or power outage.

  • Coordinated evacuation sites and bus transport departing from Oakridge High School and 1st Baptist Church.

  • Ensured the public was receiving accurate up-to-date information on the Air Quality, Evacuation Levels, and Resources available:

  • Printed and posted flyers on community boards for members of the community without internet access to inform of evacuation sites and resources for community members with additional needs.

  • Sent an emergency newsletter to our email subscribers informing on current events and urging to be prepared.

  • Sent regular updates through Oakridge Air Text Messages.

  • Posted reliable updates on our Facebook page.

As shown during this event, South Willamette Solutions is an important implementing partner that can respond during times of community need. Community based organizations such as us are key to the function of rural communities.

Please note that resources are still available for those in need. Thank you to Food for Lane County for the Emergency Relief Food Boxes at the high school in the immediate week after the incident. The Oakridge Food Box at Westridge will resume on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:00am to 1:00pm. On Thursdays from 10:30am to 1:00pm the Oakridge Food Box truck will be at St. Vinnie’s. The Oregon Department of Human Services is also working with SNAP recipients to reimburse lost benefits due to household misfortune including power outages. A time sensitive form is located HERE under the “Resources for Evacuees” tab. Or call 541-726-3525 or 211.

Sign up for our text alerts by texting “Oakridge Air” to (541) 543-2019.

Sign up for our Newsletter. A sign up is located on the “Home” page of our website.

Follow our Facebook pages at Oakridge Air and Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative so we can continue to keep you informed about the Cedar Creek fire, resources for evacuees, and future events in our community.

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