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Gratitude goes to fire responders; onus is on residents to be prepared

Thank you, responders.

The Columbia Gorge community has shown, and should continue to show, great gratitude to the men and women who have come from all around to fight the Eagle Creek-Indian Creek fire.

Blessings, fire area residents. Many of you had to leave your homes and many more are gravely concerned for the safety of your property.

This is the worst disaster in general memory, yet the people dealing directly with the fire, and their supporters — official and non-official —have truly risen to the occasion.

This is in the face of what will certainly be a new reality in the Gorge.

“This is a moment of crisis, for some more than others. For many, it will never be the same,” said Lynn Burditt, area administrator with United States Forest Service, at Thursday’s community meeting at Hood River Valley High School.

The meeting was a welcome step by Unified Command and the agencies that participated, as evidenced by the rapt audience of 800 or so in the gymnasium, and 1,400 or so watching on KOIN-TV and a YouTube feed.

Fittingly, Burditt said, “We’re going to come together around information.”

Hood River County Sheriff Matt English put an important parenthesis around the outbreak and future outcome of the fire, expressing thanks at the start of his remarks Thursday to the local SAR, fire, and law enforcement responders for their critical role in responding to the fire, and to the dedication and teamwork they have continued to show.

(These points were underscored by Ian Yocum of Unified Command: see a video of his remarks at hoodrivernews.com.)

English further noted that it is up to the public to make sure they rely upon current and accurate information, and not on hearsay and rumor; his agency’s information avenues such as its website and Facebook pages are the go-to sources of information about evacuation and other news of interest to the community.

In addition, English pragmatically urged residents to take simple steps now if they are concerned they might need to evacuate and wonder when that could happen; English said to figure out where you would go, what you will do with your animals, and what you would take out of your home.

“It’s an awareness. And education thing,” he said.

Crews on the line are stretched thin, and every available resource is being dedicated to this fire, noted Hood River Fire Chief Leonard Damian. Which puts self-reliance and resourcefulness squarely on all our shoulders.

Complimentary copies of this newspaper were delivered Friday afternoon to the people staying at the Red Cross Shelter in Stevenson.

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