Powerline Fire comes within feet of goat ranch on Dundee Road
Walking over smoldering roots next to charred tree trunks, Lisa Roskopf said, "It's incredible it wasn't worse."
Flames from the Powerline Fire had burned feet away from a hay barn on Roskopf's nearly 30-acre goat ranch at the top of Southwest Dundee Road near Gaston.
The fire, which burned about 125 acres and is now contained, started early Tuesday morning, Sept. 8, after high winds toppled a utility pole in a forested area south of Henry Hagg Lake.
By 10:45 a.m., fire officials upgraded their Level 2, "Be Set," warning to a Level 3, "Go," order for Roskopf, her husband, George DeGeer, and all other residents along the two-mile gravel road.
Hours earlier, Roskopf was waking up when their neighbor called.
"I didn't answer the phone, I was groggy, (I thought), 'If it's important, he'll call back,'" Roskopf said. "I see a text that said, 'I'm in your driveway.'"
She picked up the phone and her neighbor told her to come out immediately. That's when she saw a fire department truck and knew there was a wildfire nearby.
Roskopf's neighbor told her, "We're getting out of here right now."
She and her husband collected some clothes and valuables, put their black Labrador retriever and two miniature dachshunds into the back of their Dodge Durango, and drove down the mountain.
But it wasn't long before Roskopf wanted to come back up to the ranch, she said.
She and her husband have run Hawks Mountain Ranch for 30 years. They currently have about 70 goats. Roskopf breeds and sells the goats to ranches across the country.
She grew up in Beaverton, which she calls "suburbia-land," and her husband grew up on a small farm in the area.
"We bought this farm for peace and quiet," Roskopf said. "And I'm the goat lady."
When she came back up to the ranch, which, at that point, was at a Level 2 evacuation warning, she had to pick which goats she wanted to save. Firefighters had already started to establish the ranch as a firefighting station, because the property looks out into a steep bowl valley where the fire was burning.
She loaded 11 of her oldest goats into a trailer and opened gates to let the other goats out of their pens. She said there wasn't enough time to think about it anyway, but she chose the oldest goats because they wouldn't be strong enough to run away from approaching fire and they were sentimental to her.
Roskopf and DeGeer stayed with her daughter, who lives in Carlton, during the evacuation.
Roskopf says she's not the type to "break down," but that first night, she did.
Her emotional trigger came as she was listening to the Washington County public safety scanner.
"She listened to that scanner all night," her husband said.
Throughout the night, Roskopf listened as dispatchers discussed firefighting efforts happening in real time from her ranch.
"They kept calling it the 'sheep ranch,'" she said.
At one point, someone on the scanner said the fire was getting too dangerous and firefighters might have to pull back from the ranch. That's when she broke down, Roskopf said.
"I was most upset about my goats," she said.
But firefighters, to Roskopf's amazement, were able to keep the flames away from all the structures at the ranch. No structures were burned anywhere within the fire.
"I can't tell you how grateful I am for (the firefighters)," she said. "It's truly incredible what they were able to do here."
The ranch looks different than how it did a week and a half ago, but that's a small price to pay, Roskopf says.
The driveway leading up to her house has burned grass about five feet from the edge of the gravel. Landscaped trees and shrubs near the house were cut down to protect it.
The steep, densely wooded slope to the northwest of the ranch is all burned out. Most trees are still standing, but others had to be cut down by firefighters, including a 375-year-old fir, Roskopf said.
"They must have cut that down with chainsaws while it was on fire," she speculated, because no vehicle could reach it.
Firefighters built a road out the back side of the property. Roskopf isn't complaining about the added road after last week's ordeal. Before the fire, there was only one road in and one road out — a potentially dangerous configuration if flames were ever to jump the road and block an escape.
Days after the fire was contained, it was clear why Roskopf and her husband bought the property — it was peaceful and quiet. But the area was cloaked in a smoky, foggy haze that blocked the view of Hagg Lake from a fire pit and two camping chairs on the property.
Roskopf and her husband came out of the house wearing N95 masks, which she said she stockpiled years before the coronavirus pandemic because she has asthma. While surveying the ranch, Roskopf occasionally coughed — struggling, like many, with hazardous air quality from 10 other wildfires still burning in Oregon.
The Powerline Fire was the only fire on state land the Oregon Department of Forestry had shifted back to local authorities by Tuesday, Sept. 15. Of them, it burned least number of acres by far.
As Roskopf said "hello" to her goats, now back in their pens, she said they were like her children. The goats, many of which are named after desserts — such as Chocolate and Donut — raised their noses to be petted by Roskopf.
One of Roskopf's human children, Mandy Oriet, was among the many private citizens who, along with local logging and lumber companies, brought in timber equipment to help build fire lines.
The evening of her parents' evacuation, Oriet sat waiting to help on a massive tree cutting machine she knew how to operate stationed at the Elks Recreation Area at Hagg Lake, where firefighters set up a command post. The machine was ultimately used to help fight the fire.
In addition to the public safety scanner Roskopf monitored during the evacuation, she monitored the fire using a motion-sensing security camera that has a video feed to her phone.
Asked how she could bring herself to potentially watch a live feed of her livelihood burn down, Roskopf said, "I had to know. What was going through my mind is I didn't know, (were) my poor goats burning up?"
The last week is a blur to Roskopf, she said. The sight of her ranch still intact when the evacuation order was lifted on Friday, Sept. 11, prompted the first good night of sleep in days, she said.
She knows, relatively speaking, she's one of the lucky evacuees in recent days, she said.
On Tuesday, Roskopf planned to re-count her goats, even though she thinks they're all at the ranch. She said she thought her last count, which showed she was three goats short, was simply a result of exhaustion.
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