Winds have driven a significant spread of the Echo Mountain Complex fire, which has jumped from a couple of hundred acres to more than 1,000 acres as of the noon hour Wednesday, according to Oregon Department of Forestry officials. Matt Thomas of ODF said low humidity and strong east winds overnight and into the morning drove the spread of the blaze, which began on the north side of Highway 18 near the 7-8 mile marker and jumped the highway.
The rapid spread of the fires initially forced the evacuation of Otis and surrounding areas and has now extended the evacuation area southward into a significant portion of Lincoln City. “Basically, the fire was burning at will,” Thomas said.
ODF said an infra-red (heat seeking) flight has been ordered today to get a map of the current fires and a better size estimate. Local firefighters and ODF have been out in force around the clock on the fire lines, but outside help is very limited due to the large number of fires across the state. Thomas said there’s been no containment of the blaze yet, and that may not happen for an extended period. People who have evacuated or may face evacuation should be prepared to be away from their homes for some time. No assessment of property damage is expected for at least 48 hours.
Most of the Lincoln City north of SW 12th Street is under a Level 3 evacuation order, which is a directive to leave immediately. People living south of that point are currently on a Level 1 alert (be prepared to evacuate). The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office used its two marine patrol boats to evacuate some people living along East Devils Lake Road by water. Staff with county Emergency Management, the Sheriff’s Office, city public safety agencies, the American Red Cross and local non-profits and faith groups are banding together to address immediate needs for shelter and food for evacuees.
The main campus of Oregon Coast Community College is South Beach has been established as a temporary receiving site for evacuees. Additional sites are being set up in Toledo at the high school (for campers and RVs) and Memorial Field (for tent campers).
Arrangements are being made for additional sites in other parts of the county. The Lincoln County Commons is being set up to receive horses and livestock, and 4H youth will assist owners in caring for their animals. “This community has come together in an amazing way to protect lives and property,” said Kaety Jacobsen, chair of the Board of County Commissioners. “This is unprecedented situation, but we will get through this together.”