Editorial Note To Our Readers: We asked this evacuee from one of the most destructive wildfires of this tragic week to share his OpEd because it reads like it could be a letter from our Mountain Community’s own future. Let’s use this warning. Let’s take action. We can still help avoid what happened in Talent by starting a program of home-hardening incentives here immediately. Let’s do what is necessary to create a Fire Safe Community.
We need to lobby our property owners associations, county, state and federal officials to make home-hardening the top priority over backcountry commercial logging projects—to ensure safety first right in our own neighborhoods.
Our reporting this week and last is seeking to sort out facts from assumptions, illusion from data, about fire safety in these startling new conditions. —Patric Hedlund, TME Editor
By Dominick A. DellaSala, PhD
My hometown of Talent, Oregon, is a disaster area as I write this, and I am in tears over the destruction of my community.
Lives have been forever changed by this tragedy that could have been avoided with better planning.
We simply were not prepared.
Our elected officials have neglected to take action for community safety, focusing mostly on backcountry logging projects. This destruction took place on their watch.
We have been falsely promised that if only forest managers can thin our forests, wildfires would be less intense and smoke levels would drop. The Almeda fire (that has just decimated my hometown) had nothing to do with forests.
Urban Homes, Not Forests
Hundreds of urban structures burned in a domino effect, ignited by embers cast for miles ahead of flames by unusually strong winds, extreme temperatures and excessive drought.
Homes became fuels.
Neglect of Public Safety
As an evacuee, it’s only natural for me to feel angry about the abject neglect for public safety that could have been avoided with proper planning by elected officials in a region that is feeling unprecedented pain.
Consider: it took hours to reach safety in miles-long traffic jams. Ashland had a single lane leaving town, heading north to I-5, jammed with escaping traffic.
As grateful as I am for our brave emergency responders, they were understandably overwhelmed and grossly underfunded.
Oregon and California desperately need an infusion of disaster aid, relocation assistance and proper planning to make sure this never happens again.
This means planning for home hardening and defensible space, along with sufficient shelters for every single community. Local planners need to have escape routes ready to go on a moment’s notice with a central warning system accessible to all residents in real time.
Climate Chaos Ahead
It is irresponsible for local, state and national elected officials to continue to ignore the obvious connection to climate chaos going forward.
Instead of “thoughts and prayers” from elected officials, we need real action that rebuilds communities with safety as our first and foremost priority.
Dominick A. DellaSala, PhD, is Chief Scientist at Wild-Heritage, a project of the Earth Island Institute and an award-winning scientist, author of over 200 peer-reviewed studies and books.
CORRECTION NOTE: The Almeda fire burned through Talent, Oregon. In our first version of this OpEd, we referred to it as “the Alameda fire.” The name has been corrected in our online stories about this tragedy.
Dominick DellaSala, PhD
To see full stories with photos, please purchase a copy of the newspaper at many locations (click this link for a list) throughout the Mountain Communities.
Or, have your newspaper delivered via mail and include internet access. Just call 661-245-3794. Classified ads are FREE to paid subscribers! See front page at www.mountainenterprise.com for details.
The e-Edition is available now with full photos and stories at The Mountain Enterprise e-Edition. Select the 2020-0918 edition.
(subscriber login required)
This is part of the September 25, 2020 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.