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Photo by Pat McAbery
Hoodland Fire helps fight Eagle Creek Fire posted on 10/02/2017

Two crews from the Hoodland Fire District (HFD), each featuring a brush unit with two firefighters, helped fight the Eagle Creek Fire last month, as part of a Clackamas County task force. HFD was one of a number of districts mobilized statewide to help battle the blaze, and HFD Chief John Ingrao noted the two crews worked nights and were assigned to various areas during their assignments, including performing structural protection and suppressing the fire from moving quickly.

Ingrao noted the fire offered some challenges, including its size, the steepness of terrain, heavy smoke and falling debris.

“We’re trained to fight wild land fires, and it was just a different location with the urban interface being the critical priority,” Ingrao said.

Ingrao added that the HFD’s proximity to the fire meant that he was briefed every morning and evening on the fire.

“We were very well in tune to the dynamics that were going on,” he said.

Mountain resident Pat McAbery, a firefighter with the Gresham Fire Department, also spent a week on the Eagle Creek fire after spending a week at the Chetco Bar Fire near Brookings. As part of his duties in providing structural protection, McAbery spent time near the Eagle Creek fish hatchery, including working on sprinkler systems used to protect a bridge and later protected a house in Warrendale next to one that had been lost.

McAbery added that the fire was much different than some of the other wildfires he’s battled, such as ones near The Dalles and Warm Springs, which are typically grass fires that run fast and then go out, calling the Eagle Creek Fire an “eye opener” for firefighters who are used to quick events.

He noted that while the fire was extremely destructive, not all was lost in the blaze and the landscape is not completely charred.

“There’s a lot of stuff that’s burned up, but there’s an amazing amount that’s not,” he said, noting that about half of the big trees remain. The gorge will be forever different, but it’s not destroyed. There are places that are totally gone and places that are totally not gone. It will recover.”

Ingrao said that the HFD is fortunate to enjoy fairly moist conditions in general, but that if different conditions lined up, especially with a suspicious ignition source, an event like the Eagle Creek Fire could happen anywhere.

“I firmly believe we are just lucky and fortunate, because it could have happened here,” he said.

The district did not see an increase of medical calls for respiratory problems during the Eagle Creek Fire, but did get a number of calls from people who smelled smoke and thought there was a fire nearby. Ingrao noted that the district responded to all of them, and found it was smoke drifting over from the Columbia Gorge.

The district did see an uptick of old campfires reigniting in dispersed camping areas toward the end of August, likely ones that were put out but not drowned out.

Ingrao added that some fires may have been smoldering for months and that it takes a lot to fully extinguish a campfire.

“You really have to pour water on it, smother it, stir it, because it doesn’t get into the essence of the embers,” he said. “They can be very deep seated.”

Ingrao encouraged people to visit the website www.firewise.org to learn more about steps to help protect their homes from fire, including everything from various types of construction materials to different vegetation that can suppress flames.

District to hold open house

The HFD will hold its annual Open House from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, at the main fire station, 69634 Hwy. 26 in Welches.

The event will feature demonstrations, including auto extrication, and partner organizations such as the Red Cross.

For more information, visit the HFD’s Facebook page.

By Garth Guibord/MT




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