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Oregon State Parks begin to assess wildfire and storm damage

The devastating wildfires that continue to level the Oregon landscape have so far burned about 900 acres of state parkland, most of it undeveloped forest, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) report.

Posted: Sep 19, 2020 9:12 AM
Updated: Sep 19, 2020 9:13 AM

OREGON -- The devastating wildfires that continue to level the Oregon landscape have so far burned about 900 acres of state parkland, most of it undeveloped forest, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) reports.

Some parks remain closed due to windstorm damage, or their proximity to active fires. Twenty-four parks have been closed since Sep. 7.

Given the scope and severity of the fires, the 900-acre toll was a testament to both luck and extraordinary first responders, said OPRD Director Lisa Sumption.

Collier Memorial State Park took the biggest hit, losing some 400 acres of Ponderosa Pines. OPRD Forester Craig Leech said that “although 400 acres is a lot by any estimation, the careful fuel reduction and stand improvement slowed the fire spread enough to be contained before major damage occurred.

Detroit Lake State Recreation Area and the Mongold day-use area on the lake suffered only minor damage from the Beachie Creek Fire. Local authorities, the Oregon Marine Board and emergency responders are working together to help safely retrieve boats that people had to abandon on the lake when they evacuated.

Nearby, North Santiam State Recreation Area suffered far worse damage. The fire burned straight through the small campground on the North Santiam River.

Several parks in the Willamette Valley and on the north coast are serving as evacuation sites, some in partnership with the American Red Cross. "We are happy to help provide a temporary landing place for those whose lives have been uprooted by this wildfire disaster,” said OPRD director Lisa Sumption. “We are looking forward to restoring and reopening our closed parks as soon as is safely possible.”

OPRD staff are assessing damage and scheduling repairs, where conditions allow. In many cases, fires are still burning near parks, evacuation orders are still in place and air quality remains unhealthy. OPRD asks the public to stay out of closed parks as restoration and recovery efforts take place.

“We are still very much in the emergency response mode. We will have more information to share about restoring and reopening damaged parks once it is safe for our staff to do so,” said OPRD Communications Director Jason Resch.

Many parks remain open, but still could be experiencing poor air quality. Some major highways and roads used to access parks are closed.

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