Off-road enthusiasts recover cars, semis stuck in snow
A network of off-road vehicle enthusiasts in Oregon who help coordinate recoveries of stranded vehicles stepped up their efforts during the recent storm to recover hundreds of vehicles stuck in the snow on the side of the road for free.
It was all made possible thanks to Offroad Portal, a website app created by software developer and fellow off-road enthusiast Alvaro Fontan.
Fontan, who also is the webmaster and software architect of Pamplin Media Group, told KOIN 6 News he created the site to help the off-road community help people who are stranded, and all completely for free. Pamplin Media Group also is a sponsor of Offroad Portal.
"We usually engage when the recovery is so bad that it's people stranded in a place where, you know, they don't have a cell phone connection or they don't have a way to connect to a towing company or … the towing companies sometimes call us and say you guys can take care of this one," Fontan said.
The network connects about 1,000 fully equipped members across Oregon and southern Washington who can be dispatched when a recovery is requested. People can submit a request ticket to their website app or by texting the request and GPS location to 503-877-5263.
Fontan said they've helped over 180 vehicles in the past year, prior to the recent snow storm. Fontan began the site a year ago after migrating the group off of Facebook in order to streamline the recovery ticketing system.
He said volunteers usually do not do recoveries in bigger cities, but work outside city limits. The service is not meant to compete with tow companies, but is instead meant for stranded vehicles that are outside the normal range of tow trucks, like rural off-road recreation areas.
However, they make an exception during times like the recent ice and snow storms that occurred in Oregon with many vehicles struggling to maintain traction underneath their tires.
Fontan said around 60 volunteers from the group worked on recoveries free to the public, from Thursday, Feb. 11, through Sunday, Feb. 14, from Forest Grove all the way to Troutdale. They rescued more than 369 vehicles combined, 17 of which were semi-trucks, Fontan said. They also gave 35 jumps. The people they helped included local authorities and delivery trucks.
"We also got contacted by Providence Hospitals when they were in need of transporting health workers from and to their hospitals. We also got people to get medicine, provided gas, wood and food to elders who couldn't drive themselves," Fontan said.
Volunteers worked more than 24 hours straight Friday, Feb. 12, through Saturday Feb. 13, when most of the recoveries happened, Fontan said.
The group also helped out during the flooding event in eastern Oregon last year, as well as during historic wildfires that ravaged the state beginning Labor Day last year. Both times, off-roaders worked to recover people and animals seeking evacuation.
Offroad Portal is a nonprofit that operates through donations, for which there is a Patreon page if people would like to give monthly donations. In addition, Fontan said the group is sponsored by Warn Industries, a Clackamas-based manufacturing company that is known for its winches and other off-road vehicle recovery equipment and accessories.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here.
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