REDMOND, OR -- During Senator Ron Wyden's visit to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Redmond, Thursday, he talked with forestry officials about how the eclipse could impact fire season, and what fire prevention steps are being taken. John Allen, the Deschutes National Forest's Forest Supervisor, told Wyden they are taking a proactive approach. "One thing we're doing different for the eclipse event, recognizing the state highways and major roads are going to be plugged and aviation may be one of the only ways of responding, we're pre-positioning our firefighting forces out throughout our geographic area, Ron, and many of them will be staying overnight in these remote locations so we can get firefighters to fires and not rely on the state highways like we normally would, to get places."
Sen. Wyden questioned whether the large number of eclipse watchers coming from outside the High Desert will be able to get information about the wildfire danger and potential evacuations. "You kinda think to yourself, you're out in the wilderness, you're camping, you're doing what generations of Oregonians have done and then you have a big fire, and you're trying to figure out cell service. What are people going to do in terms of communicating with you and what you're telling them?" Representatives from the US Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry and BLM explained they're posting signs near regional entrance points, staffing temporary informational kiosks and they're working to get maps to visitors that include evacuation routes.
Wyden tells KBND News, "There are going to be some people who have camped a lot before, and they probably know a lot about evacuation issues and the Forest Service pre-positioning people and what happens if your cell phone doesn't work. But, there are going to be a lot of folks who are going to be coming from all over the country - all over the world - to Central Oregon. I want to make sure that these folks have the resources to get them that information in a timely way." He adds, "They may not know that this year there's been a lot of fuels build-up, that when we have lightning strikes, that can start a huge fire in a hurry, they may not know where to turn in terms of accessing help."
Despite the preparedness effort, forestry officials admitted to Wyden that in the event of a wildfire, it may be necessary for aviation crews to notify campers of an evacuation over a helicopter's P.A. system, if all other forms of communication are unsuccessful.
Wyden also attended the drone conference at the Riverhouse Convention Center in Bend, and he held a Jefferson County Town Hall at the Warm Springs K-8 Academy, Thursday afternoon.
Eclipse Coverage on KBND is supported in part by Awnings Unlimited. Shade yourself from the sun with Awnings Unlimited at 5541-389-1619 and awningsunlimited.net.