Labor Day 2020 fires ‘in the back of our minds’

Wildfires

Lessons from last year prove valuable this year and beyond

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Labor Day 2020 will always be remembered for the devastating wildfires that devoured a large chunk of Oregon. Though this year’s weather forecast is not as extreme last year — particularly the winds — fire crews around the state are on edge.

“Last year is still absolutely in the back of our minds,” said Clackamas Fire Public Information Officer Izak Hamilton. “We just stepped down to high fire danger level and that doesn’t put us in the clear by any means.”

One of the things that’s concerning is people taking advantage of the holiday and starting recreational fires. “Whether or not that’s a good idea based on the weather we’ve seen is something we’re concerned about,” he told KOIN 6 News.

Hamilton doesn’t think the state is in a worse place. “People always have last year’s fires in the back of their mind so we hope that people are being careful with their recreational fires, but also that we’re looking out for each other.”

So far, the 2021 wildfire season in Oregon has been relatively mild. At this time, Clackamas Fire has only one crew out on Mount Hood helping with the Bull Complex Fire. They’ve been there since July 7.

Since last year, Clackamas Fire has two new 20-person crews that are already working with new equipment, including brush rigs and tankers that will allow them to get off the beaten path. They’ve also improved their wildfire training.

Hamilton said they can be as prepared as possible but the fate ultimately lies in the hands of the community.

“A lot of the fires we experience are preventable. Realistically the conversation can be how we manage and steward the land that we’ve been given and the forests around us, but also just being careful,” he said.

There will always be anxiety surrounding fire season, he said, but last year’s experience is valuable for this year and beyond.

“One of our main concerns is just making sure the community we serve is also on alert and being very careful.

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