Clackamas firefighters demonstrate courage, resilience
Our community continues to focus on the support of those impacted by the devastation of the 2020 Clackamas County wildfires. We wanted to take the opportunity during this time in which our great nation celebrates its many blessings, by giving thanks to our Clackamas firefighters and all the first responders and agencies who assisted during the wildfires.
Our firefighters faced unprecedented challenges and dangers responding to the wildfires, doing so always with the community in mind and how to best serve and save the people and property of Clackamas County. Despite the already strained resources due to the worldwide pandemic, a severe threat to all of us, they responded with courage and bravery. They performed countless unacknowledged and perhaps unnoticed acts of heroism in trying to save lives and property or reduce the losses due to the wildfires. The firefighters evacuated both those who were willing and able and those who were willing but unable. They did their best to save the possessions and homes of those who were in the paths of the raging infernos.
Throughout the time of the wildfires and still today, we continually hear stories of our firefighters selflessly working 60 hours or more. Sheer exhaustion and strain may have given rise to some statement of action or inaction that others may have deemed inconsistent with our normal practices. This human element only highlights the severity of the conditions that they were required to perform under and the stresses that were not just daily but hourly on their heels.
Our people willingly risked their own safety and wellbeing to serve the community. They did not leave the frontlines to evacuate their own families, friends or relatives who may have been in danger or who were also struggling with evacuation procedures. We are proud of our workforce because they were continually on the front lines, with no gap in firefighting efforts until relieved by state and federal resources.
Although there may be those who felt that the performance was lacking, this is simply not the facts: our firefighters used their best judgment in the most extraordinary circumstances to keep back the ravages of the wildfires. There are too many acts of courage and selflessness to mention each by incident, including the many instances of courage and valuable assistance from the community. It took all of us to act together to bring an end to the wildfires.
As a recap, the wildfires flared out of control on the evening of Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2020. The 911 systems received so many calls it was unable to promptly respond and dispatch the resources that were available for several days. In addition to responding to the wildfires, Clackamas personnel also responded to not less than 144 fire-related emergencies in the first 72 hours, which does not count the number of emergency medical and other service calls that our firefighters responded to during that period.
In any other period of time, the response demands for 144 fire responses in 72 hours would be significant for us. Adding the extraordinarily complex incidents that arose due to the wildfires, this demonstrates the scope and magnitude of the challenges that our brave firefighters faced. As is our practice in any large incident response, the fire chief has requested an After-Action Review (AAR). We are in the process of having the actions and reactions by our firefighters reviewed by an outside party so that we can improve our response. Although we hope to never face such a natural disaster again, in the event that we do, the firefighters will be even more equipped to tackle the threats. Notwithstanding the AAR and whatever recommendations come from it, it is without question or challenge that our firefighters bravely faced the considerable dangers of the wildfires and as is their mantra, ran towards the danger, not away from it.
Each and every day, wildfires or not, our personnel provide exceptional fire and emergency services to our residents and those of adjoining districts. They train for the worst and hope for the best. In many of the wildfire incidents, they faced the worst and rose to the occasion, demonstrating their courage and resilience. Their commitment to the safety of our community is without peer and it is with immense pride that we serve as the directors of this district.
Jay Cross, Clackamas Fire District #1 Board president and Eagle Creek resident
Thomas Joseph, Clackamas Fire District #1 Board vice-president and Happy Valley resident
Marilyn Wall, Clackamas Fire District #1 director and Oak Grove resident
Don Trotter, Clackamas Fire District #1 director and Oak Grove resident
Jim Syring Clackamas Fire District #1 director and Damascus resident
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