Local trio helps fight wildfire in C. Oregon

Firefighters from Hood River give as well as receive expertise while helping fight the Waterfalls 2 fire in Central Oregon this week.

A paramedic, a fire strategist and a public information officer were all deployed on Aug. 14 to the 9,000-acre fire, 5 miles northeast of Mount Jefferson.

Fire Marshal Peter Mackwell is lending his planning skills, Lt. Doug Epperson is honing his outreach talents and engineer-paramedic Diedrick Snelling is providing medical care, through their roles within the U.S. Regional Forest Service Northwest Incident Management Team, which pays their salaries while they are away from Hood River.

“They bring a lot of assets to the fire,” said Hood River Fire Chief Devon Wells.

“We can really help out, and it doesn’t really cost Hood River anything, but it helps the federal government, helps with fires, and these guys are getting major experience,” Wells said.

The lightning-started Waterfalls 2, 22 miles west of Warm Springs, is 9 percent contained as of Friday. Its fuels are timber and understory, dormant brush and hardwood slash.

In the past 48 hours, winds and lower humidity have helped spread the fire to the northeast, according to the Incident Management Team website, www.inciweb.com.

Sending three professionals to an out-of-county fire “doesn’t have an impact on our daily operations because we can cover with other people,” Wells said, though he declined a request to join the team at Waterfalls 2 because another officer was out on sick leave.

Mackwell is serving as a situation unit leader, working in planning section, which involves coordinating GIS and maps of the fire and helping get teams ready for each day’s assignments.

Epperson is assistant public information officer. He takes messages from fire command, helps run community meetings and works on website management and other outreach.

Snelling serves as incident medical specialist, working with the USFS medical group, either as paramedic at base camp or out on the fire line. Wells said he receives texts and emails every couple of days from the trio, and all are well.

“Peter is really good at his planning, working toward planning section chief (certification) and is pretty far up the chain,” Wells said. “He is a huge asset to the team as Incident Command knows him really well. Even in the off-season there are lots of emails back and forth from other fire planners helping each other.”

“They’re getting really valuable experiences to bring back to Hood River,” Wells said. “Seeing incident command and how it functions definitely helps them come back and operate inside that fire should we have one here.

“Diedrick has seen how big fires affect the medical branch,” and Epperson doesn’t have the opportunity to be PIO on a routine basis but down there he is doing nothing else for two weeks,” according to Wells, “working with some very high-intensity fire situations, with impacts on communities and evacuation notices.”

Wells said it will be good preparation for later if staffing allows him to move Epperson into doing more of an outreach role in Hood River.

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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 www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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