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Mt. Hood Corridor Wildfire Partnership Presents Outstanding Workshop

By Michelle M. Winner

Mt. Hood Corridor Wildfire Partnership Presents Outstanding Workshop

Publisher’s Note: You will notice that there are two stories about this event in this paper. We decided to run both of them due to the importance of the event and the information contained within.

Fire and disaster experts warn that in our current climate reality, it is no longer a question of whether a wildfire happens but when. Most Mountain residents experienced the Riverside Fire in 2021 near Estacada and the 2023 Camp Creek Fire in the Bull Run watershed and Mt. Hood National Forest. They are left wondering what they can do to affect a favorable outcome by preparing for the next fire. Enter the Mt. Hood Corridor Wildfire Partnership, a multi-agency group working together on a Fire Mitigation Action Plan for our community.
The Mt. Hood Corridor Wildfire Partnership, according to a 2022 report by the Community Mitigation Assistance Team (CMAT), was created in response to several large wildfires near the Hwy. 26 Corridor and the eight-day Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) PGE implemented in 2022 due to the Riverside Fire (Estacada). Considering the number of agencies on the federal, state, and local levels involved in a wildfire, in the Spring of 2022 the ZigZag Ranger District of the Mt. Hood National Forest and Hoodland Fire began discussions with CMAT about forming a multi-agency partnership. The intent was to be proactive, develop a Fire Mitigation Action Plan, and include community residents by inviting Community Planning Organizations (CPOs) and Homeowner Associations (HOAs) to partner. The resulting collaborative Mt. Hood Corridor Wildfire Partnership organizes educational outreach events like the “Wildfire Ready Mt. Hood Homeowners Workshop'' as part of its official Fire Mitigation Action Plan.
On May 19th, Hoodland residents gathered at Welches School for an interactive learning event presented by the Mt. Hood Corridor Wildfire Partnership. Participants in the “Wildfire Ready Mt. Hood Homeowners Workshop” were informed of available resources. They took classes on reducing wildfire risk to their homes and property, creating communication and evacuation plans and organizing their neighbors to prepare for fire.
Kayla Bordelon, Regional Fire Specialist at Oregon State University, opened the workshop by asking participants, “What brought you out on this early rainy morning?” Pat Erdenberger, representing partnership member Hoodland CPO, answered truthfully, “Fear.”
Various agency experts presented information on four key topics. In “Home Hardening,” Jen Warren of the Community Risk Reduction Unit of the Oregon State Fire Marshal and Ben Sproul, Community Wildfire Forester of the Oregon Department of Forestry, presented ways to prevent wildfires from becoming structure fires. “Did you know that up to 90% of homes lost to wildfire are from flying fire embers landing on combustible items next to or inside the house?” Jen asked. She talked about metal screening to keep out flying embers and non-combustible building materials for roofs, fencing, and siding. Ben said, “As firefighters, we learn to look at the big picture. Can we save that house? Residents must do all they can to create space for firefighters to work safely.”
At “Resilience/ FireWise (community program),” Hoodland Fire Chief Scott Kline explained that there are more wildfires because of increased temperatures, more wind and lightning, and changes in vegetation, which now burns hotter. He said ‘Neighbors should work together to protect their homes, create an action plan, hold community clean-up days, and get certified with the FireWise program.” He introduced Melinda McCrossen, a resident of the Timberline Rim community. She spoke about efforts to regain Tim Rim’s FireWise certification, “It is important to set up an emergency network and switch your mindset to what are we going to do in an emergency?” Melinda commented on the benefits of her FireWise training, “I learned to look at my home differently.“ FireWise is a joint effort by Clackamas Fire, ODF, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), Hoodland Fire and Oregon State Fire Marshal.
The “Defensible Space” segment was outside on a wooded trail. Jeremy Goers, FMO US Forest Service, ZigZag Ranger District, and Logan Hancock, AntFarm Community Defense Program Manager, pointed out flammable moss growing on a dead fir branch, identified young trees as ladder fuels, and explained what a defensible space should be. “I think there can be a healthy balance between having trees and a defensible space around your home,” Jeremy said. “In the assessment process, we call the first five feet around your home the Zero Zone,” Logan said, “ it should be free of vegetation, wood, and anything that will burn. Remove pine needles from the roof and gutters, spread gravel around your house, limb up your mature trees, and remove all ladder fuels. It's something you can do now.”
Jay Wilson, Clackamas County Disaster Manager, and John Farmer of Portland General Electric presented “Evacuation and Hazard Mitigation.” “Being prepared starts with getting to know your neighbors - they are the people who will turn to you (for help) or be there for you,” Jay said. He talked about three things to do now to plan for a disaster: know the risk, make a go-kit, and have an evacuation plan. A resident asked him about communications without wifi and power and how she would be alerted to accessible evacuation routes. Jay responded that reliable disaster communication is being worked on now. PGE spokesman John Farmer said, “ Good reminder to update your contact info with PGE so they can send shut-off alerts. Being prepared is a responsibility all year long.” He described how a wildfire Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) works and why there can be a lag time before restoration while PGE crews inspect every power line before it is safe to turn back on.
After the workshop, all participants enjoyed lunch by Busy Bee Catering and had time to speak one-on-one with the agency reps. “Our goal was to provide residents with the information and tools to tackle wildfire preparedness. A whole network of fire professionals in the Mt Hood Corridor Partnership are here to support them along the way,” Kayla Bordelon said. Brentwood Reid, Clackamas Fire, remarked, “I am grateful to the Oregon Trail School District for hosting the event. They joined the partnership recently and have been an active partner.“ Jen Warren added, “We are living in a time of change, and we can adapt to living with wildfire. It takes a whole community, but we can be successful.”
Visit for info on creating defensible space, evacuation planning, signing up for a home assessment by AntFarm, the FireWise program, and an upcoming woody debris collection event.

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