Contributed photoWildfire Preparedness Fair at Timberline Lodge posted on 04/29/2023
Jeremy Goers, West Zone Fire Management Officer for the
Mount Hood National Forest (MHNF), said he was told that Hwy. 26 might be the
last unburned east-west corridor in the Cascade Mountain range.
“That blew my mind,” he said. “We can thank Portland General
Electric (for shutting off power in 2020). They saved it. It’s kind of
terrifying to think about.”
Goers and many others representing agencies and stakeholders
in the Mount Hood community will take part in a Wildfire Preparedness Fair from
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at Timberline Lodge. The fair will offer
people the chance to learn about preparing for wildfires and how to get the
most accurate information.
Goers noted that discussion about wildfires on the west side
of Mount Hood ramped up following the Camp Fire in 2018 that destroyed much of
Paradise, Calif. Last October, the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Community
Mitigation Assistance Team (CMAT) visited the area to help build collaboration
with the various agencies, businesses and residents for wildfire preparation.
“It was great, the whole idea is you have to get buy-in from
the majority of the community,” Goers said, noting that Timberline, the Oregon
Department of Forestry, Skibowl and Hoodland Fire District were among the
CMAT’s visit resulted in a report aimed at building the
group, now called the Mt. Hood Corridor Wildfire Partnership, and have
discussion about wildland fire risk throughout the year. Goers noted that in
April, the group was able to test a framework for evacuations in Government
Camp presented by Clackamas County Disaster Management.
“It’s been great so far just to continue to get people
talking,” he said.
Clackamas Fire District is expected to bring a simulation
table that features the topography of an area and can simulate how a wildfire
might act under certain conditions, such as wind. Those conditions can be
altered to see the change in the fire’s behavior.
Brent Olson, Battalion Chief for CFD, noted the simulation
table is a new technology the district received recently and that it
conglomerates many different data inputs from various sources to display the
simulation in a way that’s easy for people to understand.
“It does more than just wildfire, it does flood response,
plume modeling for hazardous materials like chemical releases and evacuation
modeling,” he said, noting that the Timberline event will be the first one
where it is utilized for public outreach.
Information will also be available on a new technology being
used on Mount Hood, Pano Stations, utilizing enhanced visual equipment
supported by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to quickly identify fire activity.
Sandy Fire District Chief Phil Schneider noted that the technology, which has
four towers in the area, has notified him of fires even before he gets the call
from 9-1-1 dispatch.
“I’m pretty impressed,” he said. “It’s been catching
everything in our fire district that’s a significant fire.”
Schneider noted he can access the visual feed, which
includes a full 360 degrees for each tower, and that another one is expected to
be installed at Timberline Lodge.
“It’s a big deal, it’s pretty cool technology,” Schneider
said, adding that the towers offer a much needed eye over the Bull Run area,
where lightning strikes might start a small fire that could be undetected for
days without the technology.
Schneider, who has spent more than four decades with the
Sandy Fire District, noted that in recent years he’s seen fires burn quicker
and hotter in the region. He added the fair offers people a chance to become
more educated about the risk while also learning of ways to be responsible and
take care of their property, including grants available through Ant Farm.
He also noted that the simulation table will be able to show
how mitigation efforts on a specific property can make a difference in how
wildfire spreads and how properties can be saved.
“It’s pretty impactful for the community to see that,”
Goers added that it’s hard to tell what this summer’s
wildfire season will look like, but it’s imperative for the community to be
prepared for this year and beyond.
“We’re always going to get fires,” Goers said. “We get a lot
of human-caused fires; way more than we should.”
The Wildfire Preparedness Fair will also feature Smokey
Bear, kids’ activities and a reward for participants who visit all the agencies
there. For more information, visit
By Garth Guibord/MT