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In this edition of Chief’s Corner, we will talk about Wildfire Preparation, PGE Public Safety Power Shut-offs and how Corbett Fire District #14 is prepared to control wildfires.
Wildfire Preparation for Your Home
Creating and maintaining a defensible space is very important to protect your structure…this should be on your mind and in your actions every year, long before a wildfire starts.
No dry standing vegetation or highly combustible plants (especially junipers) within 30 feet of your home, combustible decks and outbuildings. This includes overhanging branches. If you are at the top of a slope this distance is longer.
No wood piles, propane tanks or RVs/boats within 30 feet of your home.
Clean your gutters, this is very high priority. Everything else can be perfect, but if you have dry leaves and needles in your gutters, flying embers can land on your roof, roll down into your gutters and ignite your home.
Address signs and access for fire apparatus: Can we find your home quickly and drive a fire engine to your house? Is your driveway 12 feet wide with 10 feet of overhead clearance? Once at your house, can we turn around or do we have to back all the way out?
Be prepared to evacuate. Have a “GO” kit with at least prescription medications and what you consider bare necessities. Take your pets with you. Have a plan for your livestock. If fire or severe smoke threatens your livestock, we will release fenced-in animals as a last resort.
Look here for more information on defensible space: https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/get-reasy/defensible-space
Lastly: Make sure you have adequate homeowners insurance. We will take every reasonable and aggressive action to protect your home and property; however the only time we will risk our lives is to save a life.
Evacuation: Ready (Level 1), Set (Level 2), Go! (Level 3); Multnomah County Sheriff Deputies and our Citizen’s Patrol will coordinate and lead evacuations.
For a more detailed explanation of evacuation procedures, see Multnomah County’s website: https://www.multco.us/air-quality-public-health-problem/get-ready-be-set-go-evacuation-levels-explained
PGE Public Safety Power Shutoffs
PGE has indicated that they will, under extreme weather conditions (extreme heat, high winds, and/or low humidity), preemptively shut off electricity to their customers in Corbett in an effort to prevent wildfires.
*This is a big change, please prepare for it *
Having no electricity on the hottest (and possibly smokiest) days of the year will require preparation on your part.
Use your portable generator safely, always outside, on concrete, asphalt or gravel but never near combustible vegetation.
Be especially careful refueling hot gasoline-powered generators.
If you have necessary medical equipment that requires electricity, please prepare accordingly.
Make sure your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors have working batteries. Test them when the power goes off.
Residents that rely on private well water, please have a plan to water your livestock. This may include storing water in larger stock tanks.
PGE has plans to provide drinking water, ice (for your refrigerators and freezers) and cell phone charging in the parking lot of Corbett Grade School.
Finally, keep a watchful eye on your at-risk neighbors. (Corbett residents excel at this already)
*Statistics to help you make decisions*
If you have lung disease and it’s smoky outside, it may be in your best interest to leave your home and seek shelter where electricity (and air conditioning) is available. In 2020, over 1,200 people died of the adverse effects of wildfire smoke inhalation.
The #1 weather related cause of death in the US is extreme heat with 138 deaths in 2020. This is especially true for elderly people.
In 2020, 47 people died directly as a result of wildfires (this figure includes firefighters and residents that refused to evacuate.
Corbett Fire is Prepared to Extinguish Wildfires
We are trained and equipped to rapidly contain any wildfire that starts within 1,000 feet of a road in walkable terrain.
Our goal is to accomplish containment within the 1st hour on scene for fires that start within our Fire District boundaries or on adjacent privately-held timberland.
We have (3) structural engines, (1) heavy brush engine, (2) smaller brush units (new this year) and (2) water tenders. We have 9,800 gallons of water on these (8) apparatus that are staffed by 30 well trained citizen-firefighters. We carry over 5,000 feet of wildland hose.
Our partners at Gresham Fire will help us on a moment’s notice in the event of an extremely large fire. Mutual Aid is the backbone of our robust response to the more extreme fires. Additionally, Sandy Fire District #72, Clackamas County Fire District #1, Cascade Locks Fire and Portland Fire & Rescue all stand ready to assist us 24/7/365.
We have redoubled our efforts at forested area gate access and obtained keys for most of them. We have also purchased metal cutting circular says to remove gates as a last resort to gain quick access.
The “East Wind” is the primary driver of most wildland fires in Corbett; many view this as a 100% negative situation. The upside is that the Western edge of the fire is where we can almost exclusively focus our containment efforts to stop the forward progress of the fire.
Immediately stopping wildfires while still small is our primary goal and key to keeping our community safe. We don’t have the capacity or expertise to use the “wait and see while the fire gets bigger” method of fire control.
Have a great and safe summer!
– Dave Flood
Welcome to our new website! Thanks to community member Mindy Schmidt for donating it.
In this edition of Chief’s Corner, we will give you a little more detail about our fire district and especially our firefighters and equipment.
We’re not using the word “our” accidentally. This fire district was officially created by Corbett/Springdale residents in 1949, with Aims joining us in 1971. We are funded by your tax dollars and staffed by your neighbors, citizen-firefighters. 346 community members have volunteered in the last 71 years.
85% of our funding comes from your property taxes with the remaining money coming from protection agreement contracts. Our tax rate is $1.26 per $1000 assessed value (it’s important to note that assessed value is typically much lower than market value). An informal evaluation of assessed property values in our district shows that the average residential property is assessed at $300,000 which is an average tax of $387 per year per residence, a little over $30 per month.
Corbett Fire District #14 is an all-volunteer fire department based out of three stations with 32 members. Our firefighters are well trained and highly skilled in Emergency Medicine, Hazardous Materials response, Technical Rescue (high angle rope and swift water), Vehicle Extrication, Gorge trail rescues, Wildland Fire Suppression and, of course, Structural Firefighting.
We protect 4,000 residents in 40 square miles, and, through contract/mutual aid agreements with Oregon State Parks, US Forest Service, Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office and Multnomah County EMS, provide fire and medical services throughout the Western Columbia River Gorge.
Station 62 in Corbett houses a structural engine, a water tender (tanker), a rescue, a heavy brush engine, a brush pickup, and a light squad for technical rescues. The total amount of “water on wheels” is 4,650 gallons. There are also 54 hydrants in the western end of their response area and no hydrants in the eastern end of their response area. We have 13 firefighters assigned to this main station.
Station 61 in Springdale houses a structural engine and a brush pickup. There are 12 firefighters assigned to the Springdale Station. There are 1,300 gallons of “water on wheels” here and 36 hydrants throughout their response area.
Station 63 in Aims houses a structural engine and a water tender (tanker). There are 8 firefighters assigned to the Aims Station. There is a total of 4,000 gallons of water on wheels here plus a 6,000- gallon cistern. There are no hydrants in Aims’ response area.
That’s a lot of information packed into seven paragraphs! Now, let’s discuss your safety and how you can avoid meeting us in an emergency.
Working smoke alarms are your very best bet to protect you and your loved ones in the event of a residential fire. We are probably not going to be able help you if a fire starts while you’re asleep and a passerby has to see flames to call 911. Even if you live next door to a fire station with a fire hydrant in your front yard, you need smoke alarms.
Do not, under any circumstances, use portable fueled appliances indoors. These are meant to be used outdoors only. We’ve had two fire deaths and one very close call in the last six years due to the improper use of these appliances.
Seat belts/child safety seats have dramatically reduced traffic deaths. Keep up the good work.
Be very watchful while walking, jogging or biking in or near any roadway or parking lot.
Please do not ignore unusual chest pain or breathing difficulties, especially if their onset is sudden. Call 911. Don’t be too embarrassed to ask for our help.
Thanks for checking in with us and have a great summer!
- Dave Flood