Wildfire update

The nearby wildfire is still burning, but has had minimal growth recently, currently 37% contained. Which may not sound great, but it’s the important 37% near civilization; the remainder is pretty much wilderness.

All evacuation zones have now been lifted.

To recap, on September 8 we had heavy winds, resulting in major power cuts throughout the region, which whipped a small wildfire into a massive inferno that quickly engulfed thousands of acres — currently 138,126 acres in total. As we were about to head to bed that night, we received a level 2 evacuation warning (“get set”), skipping level 1, meaning we should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. We packed up a bunch of stuff, and after agonizing about it for a while, decided to evacuate to Mom’s place three hours north, along with our dog, two pet cats, and six ducklings.

The next day, the evacuation zone went to level 3 (“go now”), so we chose wisely. We watched the evacuation zones expanding; here’s a GIF of the evacuation map from my phone:

Evacuation zones map GIF

Over the next week, as things got somewhat under control, they reduced the evacuation zones again. On the 14th, we took a day trip down to our homestead to feed the feral cats, chickens, and ducks we left behind.

Here’s a GIF of the reducing evacuation zones (each screenshot a day or more apart):

Evacuation zones map GIF

We returned home on the 19th, glad that our home was spared. 56 houses were destroyed by this fire… which is actually quite low, compared to other fires around the state and entire west coast of the US. For example, the other big fire just south of the “Riverside” one, “Beachie Creek”, destroyed 486 homes and 837 other structures.

For context for NZ people, Clackamas County is about the width of the country by Auckland — from the west coast to beyond Waiheke Island. The “Riverside” fire region is about the size of the entire Greater Auckland city.

Here’s a map that shows how the wildfire progressed; massive expansion on the 8th, then slowing down as the weather changed:

Wildfire progression map

And the latest map of the fire, with the black outline indicating the contained fire line, and red uncontrolled, mostly in the wilderness areas:

Riverside incident map

The fire will probably continue to smolder until we get lots of rain, but is no longer considered a significant threat.

For more information, check out the Riverside Fire Information page, and the Riverside Fire Incident page, plus info on other active fires in Oregon.

More ducklings day 39 (plus evacuation update)

We are home again now. Currently getting unpacked, and throwing out thousands of dollars of food from our fridges and freezers that spoiled while the power was out (for several days). That hurts. At least we have eggs for dinner! Three dozen waiting for us in the coop.

But it’s good to be home (and have a home to come back to), though we’re still at evacuation level 1 (“be ready”), so this isn’t over yet. Things seem to be improving, though.

Here’s one last picture of the ducklings in the trailer pen:


Mucking out the trailer pen, after putting the ducklings back in the vented containers:

Mucking out trailer pen

Mucking out trailer pen

Here are the ducklings in the containers after getting home; I only stacked them to carry them to the duck house:

Ducklings in containers

Back in their run; they were keen to have a bath after that three hour trip:



I’ll set up the bigger pool tomorrow.

Heading back into the duck house, with some fresh straw:


Ducklings and ducks:

Ducklings and ducks

The ducks were very happy to see me; they’d eaten all of the food I’d dumped out for them, as expected.

Evacuation update: level 1

Today the fire officials announced that they have 3% containment of the “Riverside Incident” fire. Which may not sound like a lot, but means that they are confident that the fire won’t spread any closer to the threatened city of Estacada. With a fire currently covering 135,956 acres, 3% of the perimeter is quite a distance. See this map, which shows the containment line in black:

3% containment

They also notified us of further reductions in evacuation levels. We are now in the level 1 zone (again, I don’t publish our exact location for privacy reasons, but if you know where we live, you can see where the zones are relative to our homestead):

Evacuation and fire map

The smoke is still rather thick near home, in the 300 – 500 air quality range, compared to merely 150ish up at Mom’s place:

Air quality map

So we currently plan to hang around up here for another couple of days, and see how things improve. If the state of the fire and air are about the same or better by Friday, we might head home then; we’ll decide then.

Evacuation update: homestead visit and level 2

Today we took a day-trip down to our homestead (three hours each way) to check on and feed the animals, and collect a few things we regretted not bringing north.

It was very smoky down there, unsurprisingly, being a couple of miles from the nearest fire. I put on a heavy-duty filter mask while outdoors:

David with mask

I started in the workshop, refilling the food and water dispensers at the front and back of the shop, for feral cats Pepper and Pansy there. They weren’t out of food or water yet, so hadn’t suffered. I also ripped open and left half a bag of food as a backup.

Then I went into the veggie garden, and on to the chickens; they were very vocal, and happy to see me:


Here’s a wide-angle shot; you can see the smoke. I left the door to the veggie garden open, so they can go in and help themselves to treats. A bit early; normally we’d do that once we’re done harvesting the veggies, but it may have come to your attention that this is not a normal year:


They didn’t waste much time in heading in there:


The food dispenser in the new coop was empty, as expected, but the flock block was still there, so they weren’t starving. I refilled the feeder and waterer, and dumped the rest of the bag on the floor of the coop:

Chicken coop

I did the same in the old coop, too:

Chicken coop

There were lots of eggs, unsurprisingly; here is one of the nesting boxes:


We brought about three dozen eggs back up north.

I then headed over to the pond. The fenceline trees are barely visible in the smoke:


The ducks were happy to see me; they’ve all surived:


I dumped the remainder of the bag of food from the duck house onto their food bowl, which hopefully will take them a few days to eat. They were very hungry:



I also opened the pop door on the duck house, so they can go in there; there’s a bit more food in the feeder tube.

Then I went over to the cat house, and refilled their feeder; it wasn’t empty, so they’ve had small meals each day. I powered up the Camect server, so I can now watch the cat feeder (and other cams) remotely, and will feed them more if the cats turn up.

Looking over the flowerbeds from by the cat house; rather smoky, and that fallen tree will be a project for another day:


I also refilled the bird feeders, and the hummingbird feeders.

We noticed a circle marking painted on our driveway; presumably from fire or police officials surveying that we had evacuated. A convenient indicator for the looters some locals are worried about (hey, that’s what insurance is for, though we’re not too worried about that):

Driveway marking

After we finished at the homestead, we headed to Costco to pick up a prescription for Rory and other supplies. Just as we parked, we got an official notification of a change in the evacuation boundaries. Our house is now in level 2, though only barely. Here’s a screenshot of the new evacuation and fire boundaries:

Evacuation and fire boundaries

So we could go home, though level 2 is still risky — it could increase to level 3 at a moment’s notice. We left in level 2, so it doesn’t make any more sense to go back at that level. Plus it’s very smoky down there, much better up here.

We will continue to stay at Mom’s place for a bit longer, preferably until it is reduced to level 1 or all restrictions lifted. Some rain in the forecast later in the week, so hopefully that’ll help.

Cat update for week ending September 12 (plus evacuation update)

The latest news from our evacuation from the wildfires (or more accurately climate fires): last night the power was restored to our homestead, having been off since Tuesday afternoon. Since it was without electricity for over three days, it’s safe to assume the contents of our three freezers and two fridges will have to be thrown out. But having power means that the well is working again, and the waterers in the chicken runs will refill, which will help them survive. The stream to the small pond will also be running again, providing water for the outdoor cats and wild birds.

We remain safe at Mom’s place, though the smoke from the fires is affecting the air quality up and down the west coast, as can be seen in this map (or check the current conditions):

Air quality

The fire boundary and evacuation map hasn’t really changed since yesterday (website):

Fire and evacuation map

The Clackamas county map (website):

Fire and evacuation map

I talked about the chickens and ducks yesterday; today is Caturday, so I’ll talk about the cats.

We care for nine cats: two indoor-only pet cats (Pippin and Paladin), two indoor-only feral shop cats (Pepper and Pansy), and five outdoor-only feral cats (Poppy and her offspring Porcini, Portabella aka Bella, Pomegranate aka Pommie, and Potato aka Spud).

Pippin and Paladin are safe with us. Pepper and Pansy are still in the workshop, and should have enough food and water to last them about a week. Poppy and the others can feed themselves on rodents etc, but now that the power is back, they will get some meals from the cat house. That food should last about a week too. And they can drink from the stream and small pond, plus a waterer near the cat house.

So I’m not as concerned about the cats as I am about the chickens, though the shop cats would be my next concern after the chickens. I do worry that the outdoor ferals might have abandoned us when they weren’t getting food while the power was off. The feeder has a battery backup, but according to the feeder log, apparently it didn’t work while there was no power, so the batteries must be flat. D’oh! They’ll probably stick around, though.

Unfortunately although the power and internet are back on, my Camect camera server is connected to a UPS that is off, so I can’t view the cameras remotely. I won’t know what’s happening until we go home.

Enough text, let’s have some photos. Here are Paladin and Rory snuggling in our room at Mom’s place:

Paladin and Rory

Some pictures of the feral cats from before we evacuated. Here’s Poppy:


Porcini having a bath on the kitchen lawn:


And relaxing in the kitchen garden:


Poppy emerging from the feeder:




Porcini again:


Poppy again:


Poppy and Porcini:

Poppy and Porcini

A tail:


Finally, Pansy in the back of the shop:


I hope the cats will be okay!

Flock Friday for September 11 (plus evacuation update)

As you may have seen, we had to evacuate our homestead due to some nearby wildfires. We are safe at Mom’s place, three hours north, along with our dog Rory and pet cats Pippin and Paladin, and the six ducklings.

The rest of the animals are still back at the homestead. The older ducks have their pond, so plenty of water of course, and can root around for bugs, though they may get a bit hungry. I’m more worried about the chickens.

I’m kicking myself that in our rush to evacuate, I didn’t take a few minutes to top up their food dispensers, or at least toss a bag of food in the coop. So they will likely run out of food from the dispensers sometime around now or the next day or two. They also have a couple of partial flock blocks (compressed blocks of supplemental food), which should keep them going another day or two. After that, hopefully they’ll subsist on the eggs they’re laying. If we’re away too long, they’ll probably start eating each other — chickens are vicious little dinosaurs.

They should have enough water for a while. The power is still off; if it comes on, the outdoor waterers would refill, but the water supply requires power, as it’s a well. I suspect the power will remain off until after the evacuation order is lifted.

Depending on how long that takes, we may go home to dead chickens, which would be unfortunate. But not as unfortunate as if the fire reaches our homestead. So far, it’s a couple of miles away, so hopefully won’t get closer. Here’s a map of the fires in the county. And a state-wide one; the “Riverside” fire is the main threat for our homestead. (I don’t publicly post exactly where our homestead is for privacy reasons.)

As of now, that fire has burned over 130,000 acres (of mostly trees), destroyed 33 houses and 20 other structures, and is 0% contained. Not great. But at least there haven’t been any fatalities from it so far.

So, that’s where things are at currently. The main thing is that we’re safe; much appreciation to Mom and her partner for providing a refuge for us, our pets, and the ducklings. Read the duckling posts for more on them.

Let’s enjoy some pictures from before all this went down. Here are the chickens:


I feel like they’re looking at me in an accusing way, as if they could foretell the future… but that’s just how they normally look:


Two ducks on an upturned pot island:

Two ducks on island

Ducks in the shallow end of the pond:


Sleeping in the shade under a shrub:

Ducks under shrub

Ducks and ducklings:

Ducks and ducklings

We were visited by some quail recently:


Yes, the bird feeders will run out too… but they can fend for themselves.

A scrub jay getting some of the last peanuts:

Scrub jay getting peanuts

Scrub jay getting peanuts

GIF of scrub jay getting peanuts:

GIF of scrub jay getting peanuts

Bert flapping his wings:

Bert flapping wings

Ducks on the pond:

Ducks on the pond

Two ducks on the island again:

Two ducks on island

Betty in the grasses, others at the edge of the pond:


Betty on the rock:


I hope the ducks and chickens all survive this trying time.

Wildfire evacuation!

(I posted this as three posts on my personal blog, but decided it’d make sense to collect them into a single post here.)

Jenn and I are taking a vacation this week, taking a break from social media and big screens, relaxing and playing board games and such:

Board games

Or at least that’s how the week started… then the entire west coast caught on fire.

We (and most of the county) lost power in the afternoon, due to high winds toppling trees onto hundreds of power lines. Including one of our trees, with a plume of smoke in the background:

Smoke and downed tree

We continued to play games by lantern:

Playing games by lantern

But as we were about to head to bed, we got level 2 alerts on our phones, warning us to prepare to evacuate, as wildfires spread closer to us:

Level 2 alert

We packed our bags and prepared to evacuate, but agonized about whether to leave immediately, or wait and see, since our plan was to drive to Mom’s place, three hours north. Meanwhile, a glow of fire a few miles away:

Glow of fire a few miles away

Ultimately we decided that better safe than sorry was a sensible policy, and loaded up both the car and truck, with our dog Rory and the two pet cats Pippin and Paladin in the car, and the six ducklings in the truck, since they couldn’t fend for themselves for more than a day:

Ducklings in the truck

The older ducks and feral cats can fend for themselves for as long as needed. The chickens will be fine for a few days, assuming the homestead doesn’t burn.

We hit the road, and arrived at Mom’s place around 03:00, tired but safe.

This morning, we watched the evacuation zones expanding to include our homestead, so we would have had to leave this morning if we hadn’t around midnight:

Expanding evacuation zones

Expanding evacuation zones

Expanding evacuation zones

I’ll follow up later with my usual daily duckling post… a bit less usual this time.