Fire Service: We appreciate the firefighters as we anticipate a rough fire year

News item one — “Red flag fire warning” for Hood River County:

The National Weather Service issued a red flag fire warning (3 to Go, A1) for the western half of Hood River County on Friday that was scheduled to remain in effect until 10 p.m. The red flag warning was issued due to “unusually dry conditions coupled with gusty winds”

News item two — Eleven wildfires have been reported this week in western Oregon and Washington.

This is January. Most of the current fires are, fortunately, small, but 11 fires at a time sounds like a mid-summer phenomenon, not pre-Valentine’s Day. No one is saying the fire season is starting just weeks into 2014 but this is perhaps a record short amount of time to go from the ball dropping to red flag raising.

Meanwhile the snowpack is a fraction of where it should be; the mid-Columbia has experienced an unusually dry mid-winter, and forecasts are not exactly calling for blizzards and downpours anytime soon. While the forests and wildlands aren’t August tinder dry, there has never been a January where more fire caution is in order.

There is a kind of irony in that Jan. 27 is Fire Service Appreciation Day, designated in 2007 by the Oregon Legislature.

State Fire Marshal Mark Wallace noted, “Communities have many opportunities to get involved and recognize the work and sacrifice of members of the Oregon fire service. This day is an opportunity for everyone to say thanks.”

Thank you, firefighters, paid and volunteer, permanent, for the training, time and commitment that comes with the territory. It’s all our territory, really, and if the existing conditions on the ground continue, communities will have altogether too many opportunities to say again how much we appreciate the work of our firefighters.

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Latest video:

Lawnmower torches Arbor Vitae on Portland Drive

The riding lawn mower driven by Norma Cannon overheated and made contact with dry arbor vitae owned by Lee and Norma Curtis, sending more than a dozen of the tightly-packed trees up in flames. The mower, visible at far right, was totaled. No one was injured; neighbors first kept the fire at bay with garden hoses and Westside and Hood River Fire Departments responded and doused the fire before it reached any structures. Westside Fire chief Jim Trammell, in blue shirt, directs firefighters. The video was taken by Capt. Dave Smith of Hood River Fire Department. Enlarge

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