Thank you to the many people and organizations who came together to respond to the Eagle Creek Fire Emergency, and to serve the people and animals displaced by the blaze.
The Fire Starts
Due to the extreme activity of the Eagle Creek Fire, started on Saturday, September 2, our community of the Columbia River Gorge experienced widespread evacuations and displacement for the many people and animals of these rural communities.
On the evening of Monday, September 4th, Level 3 evacuations were announced for Dodson, and Warrendale, level 2 evacuations were announced for East Corbett, and Level 1 evacuations were announced for Corbett, Latourell, and Bridal Veil. The evacuation levels continued to expand West to Troutdale on September 5, and later affecting Hood River as the blaze moved East.
The MAC-G Responds
The Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization Animal Multi-Agency Coordination Group (RDPO Animal MAC-G) took immediate action to coordinate the evacuation of animals. The Animal MAC-G is comprised of multiple animal welfare agencies including Multnomah County, Washington County, Clackamas County, Clark County, Oregon Humane Society, Humane Society for Southwest Washington, Sound Equine Options, and others.
Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) officers coordinated with Sound Equine Options (SEO) and volunteers for the evacuations, most of which took place between the evening of September 4th and the morning of September 6th. For the Eagle Creek Fire, Sound Equine Options and their substantial network of volunteers and livestock trailers proved invaluable to evacuate over 500 animals from affected areas. Other agencies in the MAC-G were ready with teams of staff and vehicles to assist in case evacuations expanded.
On Tuesday, September 5, the Multnomah County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) opened at the Troutdale Policing Community Center. The Emergency Support Function Annex 17 (ESF-17) position was activated to care for the animals and livestock affected by the fire. Tasks included coordinating the evacuation of additional animals, mustering agencies, organizations, volunteers, and supplies to help sustain the animals during their sheltering period, and to plan for and coordinate reentry after the evacuation.
The last major evacuation requests were finished by Sound Equine Options in the early hours of September 6. Several last requests persisted through September 7.
The Community Steps Up to Help
Offers to support the relief effort from the community were overwhelming, with many groups wishing to donate pet food, treats, and other supplies. Representatives at Multnomah County Animal Services and Sound Equine Options received hundreds of calls. Over 200 volunteer and donation submissions were entered in a Google Form and tracking spreadsheet created to collect and organize the many offers from the community.
Preparing to Return
The list of animals evacuated by Multnomah County Animal Services and Sound Equine Options was compiled and sorted, and later mapped using GIS to prepare for reentry.
The ESF-17 lead worked with the Public Information Officers, The State Veterinarian’s office, and Sound Equine Options to develop guidelines for reclaiming sheltered animals, and safety tips for returning to fire-affected areas with pets and livestock.
Both the ESF-17 lead and representatives from Sound Equine Options attended public meetings in Corbett on September 10, and at Edgefield in Troutdale on September 11 to field questions and concerns from community members about animals. Some residents had questions about housing or moving sheltered animals. Several concerns were raised about lost animals that were left behind.
Hundreds of Animals Sheltered and Supported
146 livestock were housed at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, with volunteer support from the Clackamas Sheriff Volunteer Posse, and donations from Wilco Farm store.
Barrel Racers National 4D also housed horses and livestock at their property. Multnomah County Animal Services housed a total of 25 animals. The remaining animals were sheltered at privately arranged locations.
The need for hay at the Clackamas Fairgrounds was substantial. At first, donations of hay were solicited to help offset the cost to the venue. However, due to the need to control contaminants and quality of hay, monetary donations were sought to reimburse the fairgrounds. The Clackamas Volunteer Fire Association board approved a $1000 donation to Sound Equine Options to provide hay and other reimbursement for shelter locations.
One goat at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds was in need of veterinary care due to an ingrown horn. Support was requested from regional VCA Animal Hospitals, and SEO coordinated veterinary care with the owners of the goat.
People and Animals Begin to Go Home
On September 12, preparations were made to open a reentry center for residents at the Corbett Community Church. On September 13, the reentry center opened for a limited number of 44 Corbett residents. The reentry packet included the developed guidelines for returning people and pets. Lost pet instructions brochures were also available due to the rising concerns of lost pets in the area. The Portland Sunshine Division provided 40 food boxes for returning residents. To supplement the food boxes, The Pongo fund donated 30 bags of dog food. Multnomah County Animal Services also supplemented with bags of cat food for returning residents.
The reentry process for animals was developed and coordinated between Sound Equine Options and Multnomah County Animal Services. Pets were clear to return home at the same time as their owners. Livestock were cleared once evacuation levels were lowered to level 1. Owners were allowed to arrange alternate care for animals before reentry.
The ESF-17 position was discontinued at the EOC on September 13, but continued to operate virtually/remotely as needed.
One resident who had lost her home to the fire was in need of two dog neuters in order to access new housing. The EOC Operations Chief reached out to request that the surgeries be provided somehow. VCA Animal Hospitals generously pledged to provide the surgeries to the resident, pro bono, in order for her to access a new home as soon as possible.
The weekend of September 16-17 brought rain, which led to the evacuations being lifted to a level 1 for all residents on Monday, September 18.
Sound Equine Options and their network of volunteers began to transport animals back home. Multnomah County Animal Services had redeemed most domestic animals over the weekend except for five goats. The ESF-17 also received a request for help transporting several animals at the Skamania shelter in Washington.
Volunteers who had signed up were contacted to assist with the outstanding transport requests.
Multnomah County Animal Services officers also planned to return the last goats to the Franciscan sisters in Bridal Veil on September 20.
On September 21, Sound Equine Options returned the last 5 horses and 30 black angus cows to their homes, signaling an end to the Eagle Creek Fire evacuations.
We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the supportive partnerships of local animal welfare groups, and the strong show of heart from our community of animal supporters.