YIR: Wildfire season prompts Columbia County response
YEAR IN REVIEW — The 2018 wildfire season saw raging, destructive blazes in Oregon and California.
In early June, Columbia County experienced an early-season wildfire called the Chapman Grange Road Fire that covered nearly 42 acres near Scappoose. Crews from Oregon Department of Forestry's Columbia City Unit and some from Scappoose Fire District took nearly a week to extinguish the fire.
While the blaze did not threaten any structures, ODF officials noted that even young trees burned easily in the blaze, suggesting dry conditions and a potentially dangerous fire season to come.
In the months after fire season was officially declared on June 26, the county experienced several burn bans imposed by Columbia County Fire Defense, a group of fire chiefs from throughout the county.
Columbia County firefighters were also dispatched via the Oregon State Fire Marshal to assist with firefighting efforts on at least three separate occasions, including dispatches to California.
In July, crews were dispatched to assist with the Mendocino Complex fire that burned more than 459,000 acres in California, making it the largest wildfire in state history, according to CalFire data. One death was reported as a result and the blaze prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in the region.
Around the same time, crews were also called to assist with Substation Fire burning in
Oregon, which burned quickly. It covered 78,000 acres and moved 18 miles in a matter of days.
In November, the firefighting task force was called again to Northern California's Butte County to assist with the deadly Camp Fire. The fire started in November and burned more than 153,000 acres. It was reported as deadliest blaze in the state's history, and one of the most destructive, according to records from CalFire. A total 86 people lost their lives as a result of the blaze and more than 18,000 structures were destroyed, according to updated information from CalFire in mid-December.
Columbia County crews assisted with securing power utility lines, putting out hot spots, and digging fire lines while deployed, and also worked to reunite some families with lost pets. Jennifer Motherway, volunteer coordinator with Columbia River Fire and Rescue, corresponded with crews to get updates during their dispatch at the time.
The devastation from the fire was felt locally as some Columbia County residents reported having family in the area affected by the fire. Michelle Moseley, a St. Helens mom, took it upon herself to fund-raise and organize a supply drive to donate items to displaced families. Her daughter also helped organize a toy drive at McBride Elementary School within a few days of hearing about the fire. Moseley then drove to California to deliver supplies and volunteer for a few days before returning home.