Fire on the Mountain

September 1, 2009

They say smoke follows beautiful people. I guess I’m blessed, because according to the Fire Gods, they must really like me. Last year, around this time, a tire blow-out on I-84 sparked a wildfire that came right up to the back fence of the Gorge View Condos, where I was living at that time. Amazingly, that back fence, and the tireless work of the firefighter crews, kept that blaze from harming any structures.

I guess it’s hard to describe what’s going through your mind when there’s a fire, literally at your back door. You start thinking about what you can put in your car, and if you can even get your car up to your place anymore. And, of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a frustrating and helpless feeling. All of a sudden, tracking down the latest news reports becomes an important task, and you hope that the news answers more of your questions, rather than leaving you with more unanswered ones.

After the fire is out, it’s an amazing feeling to walk through the area that burned. You’re looking around at the view like it’s on another planet, like it’s not real. It’s black, sooty, dirty, and clean all at the same time. You wonder why some things are gone and why some things remained.

You truly appreciate people that you don’t even know, who are out there in full turn-out gear, trying to save your property.

So, of course, after that, where was my next move in life to?

That’s right, the sleepy town of Mosier.

And on Friday night, the sleepy town was more like “Incident command post central-fire truck-helicopter-news van -depot-staging area.” Trucks and emergency vehicles descended from the land and air from all over the state to fight our Microwave Fire.

And once again, people I didn’t know were showing up in full turn-out gear trying to save property.

Peny and I were downtown at the old gas station, after watching the fire activities from Huskey Road. As we were just about to head up the hill to gather up some things, some friends happened to stop by and talk. These folks were on their way to Portland, and for some reason, they had 4 bags of extra ice in their car. They figured since we didn’t have power, that we could use it.

We were about to put it in our car, when I took one more look at the 75 guys gathering at the old gas station, trying to figure out how to deal with this situation. And I said, “You know, these guys probably need this stuff more than we do…..lets see if they have room in their ice chests.”

And it turned out, they did. And it also turned out that the guy who helped load the ice bags into the truck knew Peny, from an art class at The Dalles high school.

Peny later said to me that she wasn’t sure how he would turn out — apparently he may not have been the most cooperative art student.

But I think he turned out just fine.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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