News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Wildfire emergency drill set for June

Linn County Communications Officer

Linn County Communications

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office will team up with other county departments to hold a wildfire emergency drill in the Santiam Canyon in June, part of a preparedness plan that will be funded by a $10,000 grant from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker approved applying for the grant Tuesday morning, but while all three support the effort, they cautioned trauma still runs high among North Santiam Canyon families that experienced a massive wildfire on Sept. 8, 2020.

LCSO Captain Andy Franklin brought the proposal before the board and said the funds will be used to pay employee costs associated with developing pre-planned Everbridge emergency notifications.

There will also be a day-long live training exercise in the Canyon sometime in June, Franklin said.

Board Chairman Nyquist said Canyon residents remain “skittish” about wildfires and emphasized how important it is that there is ample notification prior to any demonstration activity.

“Emergency Management Coordinator Ric Lentz has already been working with schools setting up places for people to go and we are working with health services as well,” Franklin said.

He added there will be a lot of “heads up” notification before anything happens.

Commissioner Sprenger said she is “extremely pleased” this type of event is being planned.

“At Town Hall events, the common theme is people wish there was better communication during the wildfires,” Sprenger said.

Commissioner Tucker said he also supports the project, but notes “it will be stressful for some.”

Families in the North Santiam Canyon in both Linn and Marion counties, experienced devastating loss of property and lives when Beachie Creek Fire (Opal Creek Wilderness area), Lionshead Fire (Madras) and P-515 Fire (Madras) merged due to extremely high winds.

The combined fire called the Santiam Fire, covered more than 402,000 acres of public and private lands, 1,500 structures and five lives. The communities of Detroit, Gates, Idanha, Mill City and Lyons were severely affected.

Linn County provided an emergency evacuation shelter at the Fair & Expo Center that served people and animals. It provided health care, food and a place to sleep to more than 500 people as well as hundreds of horses, dogs, cats, emus and even chickens for nearly two weeks.

Since then, Linn County Planning & Building has waived more than $120,000 in building permit fees for families rebuilding in the canyon and with state funding, is helping families use fire resistant materials in their rebuilding efforts.

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