Make an evacuation plan: Wildfires ‘burn like a blowtorch’

Wildfires

Gladstone Fire Chief Rick Huffman held a public meeting Tuesday

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Last summer the city of Gladstone was spared during the historic Labor Day Wildfires that raged in eastern Oregon.

Gladstone Fire Chief Rick Huffman said his team of just over a dozen firefighters joined the efforts to save homes and properties in Clackamas County and around the region. And as the 2021 wildfire season is here, Huffman has one message for people:

Make an evacuation plan before the wildfire is knocking on your doorstep.

“You should have a plan. You should have a destination to go when you evacuate, be ready to take your pets and your valuables ahead of time,” Huffman said. “It’s really difficult to do that on the fly and when you’re under a lot of stress and trying to maybe even run for your life.”

Gladstone held a public meeting Tuesday night to go over an extensive list of things people should know — and what you should know before and when an evacuation order is issued.

“It’s the wind, the dryness and the amount of fuel that’s dry,” Huffman said. “You can’t stop it. You know, it just burns like a blowtorch.”

People, he said, “get really comfortable and we should be ready for an emergency ahead of time. And that’s difficult to do in normal times, but I think there’s been enough experiences over the past year-and-a-half in this area that would kind of raise our awareness and be ready to go.”

Huffman said he and the other fire chiefs all talk during wildfire season and they have a plan as well.

“The size and scope of these emergencies, there’s no way individual fire departments can handle it. And we have to back each other up,” he said. “We would go on a fire right next to our jurisdiction, and then from there, the other fire started. So our crew was leapfrogging across the state.”

But he stressed how important it is to have a plan in place before something happens.

“It doesn’t take much” in these dry, drought conditions for a spark to become an inferno, he said.

When that happens, he said, is “not the time to think about it or we haven’t any more regrets than that are necessary.”

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