ROUND TABLE: Remembering to ask: ‘How are the firefighters?’

The troublesome trio of heat, wind, and lighting activity looms over the mid-Columbia this week.

As is the case every summer in the West, wildfires are a potentially tragic reality for people everywhere.

And with the recent disastrous fire in Yarnell, Ariz., with its loss of the 19 hotshot firefighters, I would like to offer a few words to acknowledge the danger faced by the men and women who fight fires.

We certainly recognize that is the case, and offer our continued gratitude for those who go into harm’s way.

However, a reader last week expressed his unhappiness with the July 15 cartoon published on page A4 that connected the Yarnell Fire and global warming.

The reader was right to admonish us for publishing the cartoon, on the grounds that it politicized the loss of life. He felt it was disrespectful, and while no disrespect was intended, he had a point, and it is true that the choice was inappropriate.

Choosing the cartoons, from the Creative Syndicate service to which we subscribe, is up to me. The choice of the cartoon was mine. I had other cartoons to choose from for the July 15 edition. At the time, it seemed to me a worthwhile statement. Given the choice again, I would have passed on it.


I like to think of myself as someone with refined appreciation of the risks to firefighters. In my early days as a reporter, with another community weekly, I was once called to task by the fire chief for never asking, after a fire, about the welfare of the volunteers. I would ask if residents of a home were injured, as a matter of course, but one day Jack said, “How come you never ask if any of the firemen got hurt?” (This was 1981, when it was firemen, not firefighters, as women were rare in the service, mainly because of policies of gender exclusion that, happily, did not survive much longer.)

Jack’s words stuck with me, and the question of “How are the firefighters?” is one that we strive to ask every time there is a fire.

The response received over the cartoon will help me remember this.

Again, there was no intent with the recent cartoon to dishonor the ultimate sacrifice the Yarnell firefighters made, nor the daily risk to their lives so bravely undertaken by firefighters everywhere.

This is a case of lesson learned, and thank you for calling us on it. The insensitivity is mine and should not reflect on my Hood River News associates.

I want to stress, too, that I realize the effect the cartoon could have on the feelings of the firefighters as well as their family members.

I will also speak personally with the reader who first drew this to my attention, and let him know that the message is received, understood, and appreciated.


Kirby Neumann-Rea is Hood River News editor.

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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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