LINCOLN CITY — During a special Lincoln City City Council meeting Monday morning, councilors voted unanimously to ratify a city emergency declaration as a result of the Echo Mountain Complex fire.
During the early stages of the fire, on Sept. 8, City Manager Ron Chandler issued a declaration of emergency subject to city council ratification within seven days. The fire was initially reported to authorities late in the evening on Sept. 7.
Monday’s session allowed the city council, meeting via Zoom, to confirm, modify or reject the declaration via public meeting.
Due to technical issues reportedly on the service vendor’s end, the meeting was unavailable to be streamed live. Shortly after adjournment, video of the meeting was uploaded to Lincoln City’s website, lincolncity.org.
After approving Councilor Diana Hinton’s suggestion of amending the original declaration to eliminate language that outlined specific areas of evacuation as the situation continues to evolve, the council approved the emergency declaration. The order of emergency declaration lasts through Monday, Sept. 21, and can be extended by the city manager for two-week increments without city council approval.
Ratification of the emergency declaration came directly after a public comment period, during which two Lincoln City residents who spoke from downtown Lincoln City at Council Chambers voiced displeasure with the how the public received evacuation notices and other critical information during the initial days of fire response.
Lincoln City resident Fran Lonnon told the council that public notification of evacuation orders was “unacceptable,” that the Sept. 9 traffic jam that bottled up Highway 101 immediately after evacuation orders were issued was a failure and that she couldn’t believe Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital was forced to evacuate patients due to its lack of a generator.
“There are all kinds of quagmires that happened here in this that shouldn’t have, and I think that these are things that the council needs to work on badly,” Lonnon said. “I mean, this is sad. If this ever got out to the news media we would be a joke.”
Lisa Corzine added to Lonnon’s comments, chastising the council for recently approving an $87-million urban renewal area plan, when she believed the city was unprepared to handle emergency response to events such as the Echo Mountain Complex fire.
“I am embarrassed that our city had no plan, and I think moving forward that’s something that really, really needs to be focused on,” Corzine said. “And I think our fire departments, our first responders all need the most updated equipment.”
Chandler added a summary of citizen input offered for public comment, which included criticism that may have been misdirected.
“There seems to be a misunderstanding as to the city’s role in this emergency,” Chandler said. “This emergency is actually being managed by the county’s emergency operations center because the fire has occurred within the county. We have been providing assistance to the county on all levels of our departments. The information we have has been coming primarily through the county.”
Chandler said that all levels of government could improve after noting that information to residents was sparse during the fire’s initial stages, then picked up after phone, internet and power to affected areas was restored. He added that a self-review of the city’s actions during the fire event would happen in the near future.
During the council’s discussion, Hinton praised city staff for efforts to assist in any way possible.
“I just wanted to remind everybody that communication was very, very difficult,” she said. “We had no power if everyone remembers, we had no cell service if everyone remembers, we had no internet service if everyone remembers.”
Lincoln City Councilor Rick Mark placed some of the onus of preparedness on residents.
“I understand people are upset, but an emergency situation is an emergency situation,” Mark said. “(Residents) have to be prepared and take some responsibility as well. Again, I’m really sorry to those who lost what they lost.”
According to the city’s website, the council is next scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, for additional special meetings. The next regular Lincoln City City Council meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 28.