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Oct. 31, 2020

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Wildfires burn 900 acres at Oregon state parks, several buildings destroyed

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Wildfires may have burned more than 1 million acres across Oregon, but so far state parks have avoided “major damage,” officials say.

Roughly 900 acres of park land burned during the recent wildfires, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department announced Friday, limited to only five park sites across the state. Several other parks saw additional damage from the windstorm that fueled many of the fires.

Oregon parks director Lisa Sumption said in a news release that the relatively small amount of damage was a testament to both luck and the efforts of first responders.

Collier Memorial State Park in Southern Oregon was the hardest hit, park officials said. The Two Four Two Fire, which is still burning between Klamath Falls and Crater Lake, burned 400 acres, damaged Collier’s historic logging museum and destroyed a historic cabin, as well as a wood shed and host trailer.

“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,” Craig Leech, forester for the parks department, said in a news release.

Parks along the Santiam River east of Salem were also burned, as the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires merged at Detroit Lake, burning more than 384,000 acres between them, as of Friday evening. But the state park sites fared remarkably well considering the wide path of devastation to nearby forests.

About 120 acres burned at North Santiam State Recreation Area, a riverfront park with fishing spots and picnic tables, which also lost a few structures as the fire burned straight through the small campground, the parks department said.

Just upriver, the Detroit Lake State Recreation Area and Mongold day-use area saw 40 acres burn, with minor damage to part of the campground and the loss of one water storage tank. Crews are currently working to retrieve boats that people had to abandon on the lake as they evacuated.

Nearby, the damage was also relatively light at Silver Falls State Park, which experienced an early morning evacuation Sept. 8 as the Beachie Creek fire roared to life. So far, 125 acres have burned on the far southeastern boundary of the park, far from the popular campground, conference center and day-use areas.

Other parks to experience damage were Bonnie Lure State Recreation Area north of Estacada, which had 40 acres burn; Wallowa Lake State Park in northeast Oregon, where a dock was damaged by high winds; and a half-dozen park sites on the Oregon coast where wind storms resulted in downed trees.

In all, 24 state park sites remain closed since Sept. 7, due to either wildfire or wind damage. A list of closed parks can be found online at stateparks.oregon.gov.

The parks department said it is still working to assess damages and schedule repairs. And since fires are still burning near parks, there could be more damage to report soon. For now, park officials are asking people to stay out of closed parks and away from damaged areas.

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

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